Each year, hundreds of Iowa families receive the devastating news that a loved one lost their life in a traffic accident. Between heartbreak, grief, and anger, taking the first step to filing a wrongful death lawsuit is often the most difficult. While few people ever plan to fight for a relative’s legacy in court, a lawsuit is often the only way families can maintain their financial solvency in the aftermath of an unexpected death.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Iowa
Iowa state law allows the family or estate of a deceased person to file a wrongful death lawsuit if their life was taken by another person’s negligence. Under most circumstances, a wrongful death claim can be initiated if the decedent would have been entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the accident.
A wrongful death lawsuit could be filed in the aftermath of the following:
- A car crash
- A motorcycle collision
- A semi-truck accident
Since wrongful death lawsuits are a form of civil litigation, a successful claim results in a finding of liability. A defendant who is found liable for causing another person’s death may be ordered to pay damages to the deceased person’s family or estate. While a finding of liability in civil court does not entail prison time or any other criminal penalties, it still serves to hold a wrongdoer accountable for their negligence.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Iowa
Iowa only allows certain parties to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Unlike many other states, Iowa requires that the decedent’s personal representative—the executor of their estate—initiate the claim. If there is no personal representative, then the court will appoint someone to act in that capacity.
Determining Who Receives Damages From a Wrongful Death Claim
If the wrongful death lawsuit succeeds and the court awards damages, then the damages transfer to the decedent’s estate. However, some damages—including compensation for the loss of services and the loss of support—may be awarded to the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, or parents.
When to Consider Hiring an Attorney
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be an intimidating prospect. By going to court, you may have to confront the person who took your loved one’s life or negotiate a settlement that seemingly reduces your loved one’s worth to the state’s definition of fair damages.
However, filing a wrongful death lawsuit has some advantages. A successful claim could help you:
- Recover the money needed to pay for your relative’s funeral or burial fees
- Repay your loved one’s medical debt
- Substitute the deceased person’s lost income, wages, and anticipated earnings
- Compensate you for the deprivation of familial services, such as cooking, childcare, or housework
- Hold a wrongdoer accountable in a court of law, even if they were never prosecuted or were acquitted by a criminal court
An experienced Iowa wrongful death attorney could help you prepare to take a reckless motorist, negligent business, or other wrongdoer to court. Your lawyer would assist in filing paperwork, collecting evidence, and negotiating a settlement—giving you time to grieve and focus on honoring your loved one’s legacy.
The Potential Damages in an Iowa Wrongful Death Claim
Iowa does not currently cap the compensation available to most wrongful death claimants. Depending on the circumstances of your claim, you could receive damages for the following:
- Medical and hospital expenses related to your relative’s illness or death
- Funeral and burial fees, including interest on any payments
- Replacement for your loved one’s lost wages, benefits, and other earnings
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of familial services and support
- Emotional pain and suffering
While Iowa may not limit compensation in most wrongful death claims, the Hawkeye State still has a strict statute of limitations applicable to most wrongful death lawsuits. In general, any wrongful death action must be initiated within two years of the deceased person’s date of death. If a claim is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, then the court could dismiss the case without further consideration.
Contact an Experienced Iowa Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you have lost a loved one in an Iowa car accident that was not your fault, your family could file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover your financial expenses and punish the negligent motorist for their misconduct. However, you have to act fast. Please send the Law Office of Matthew A. Lathrop, PC, LLO, a message online or call us at 402-614-7744 to schedule your free, no-obligation as soon as possible.