Lincoln Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one in a tragic accident, we are sincerely sorry for your loss. While nothing in the law will ever be able to bring your loved one back or ease the pain you are feeling, at some point, you will no doubt have some legal questions, and it's important that you consult with a skilled and experienced wrongful death lawyer.

You shouldn't have to deal with lost income and mounting bills on top of trying to grieve for your loved one. If someone else caused their death, you are entitled to damages and compensation for your loss. Our Lincoln wrongful death attorneys can help you recover what you are owed. But first, we need to understand exactly what a wrongful death claim is.

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Table of Contents:

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

tablet with wrongful death on screen sitting on table next to stethoscope and pills and form

A wrongful death claim in Nebraska is a legal action brought forth when an individual's death is the result of another party's wrongful act, neglect, or default. This type of personal injury claim can help surviving family members recover damages like loss of future income, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship.

The key element in a wrongful death claim is proving that the victim's death was directly caused by the defendant's wrongful or negligent actions. At Steffens Law Accident Injury Lawyers, we work diligently to help families seek justice and the compensation they deserve in the wake of their loved one's untimely death.

What Does a Lincoln Wrongful Death Attorney Do?

After conducting a free consultation with you or a family member, an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Lincoln, NE, will give you an analysis of your claim:

  • Can liability be proven?
  • What losses can you seek compensation for?

They will also advise you on how to protect your legal claim, what to do next, and what not to do. Finally, they will compassionately answer all your legal questions based on their knowledge and many years of experience.

What Kind of Cases Can Be Brought to a Wrongful Death Attorney in Lincoln?

Wrongful death claims can be made whenever a fatal accident is:

  • Caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person or company; and
  • The negligence was such that if death had not ensued, the party injured could have maintained an action to recover damages.

Fatal accidents that commonly lead to these types of claims include:

  • Car accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents

Below, our Lincoln wrongful death lawyer answers your most common questions regarding these types of cases.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The personal representative (PR) of the decedent's estate is the only one authorized by law to make this claim and/or file a lawsuit to recover compensation. A wrongful death attorney in Lincoln can help you discover if you are qualified to bring this type of claim.

In general, the decedent's personal representative is the person who:

  1. Has the responsibility of settling a decedent's estate.
  2. Can only be appointed by a county court in a probate action.
    • A probate action is a legal case filed in county court to:
      • Inventory assets of the decedent.
      • Pay estate and inheritance taxes.
      • Settle the decedent's affairs.
      • Distribute estate assets to the heirs.

Who Can Be a Personal Representative, and Who Benefits From Wrongful Death Cases?

Typically, both are determined by the decedent's will. Whether you are a friend, a partner, a godparent, or even a distant family member, you will be given the title of a personal representative by the county court if you are specifically appointed in his or her will.

The same goes for the way assets are divided. If the decedent's will specifically states how he or she wants their assets to be divided, the court will respect those wishes and follow suit.

However, if the decedent has no will, Nebraska's law will determine who will be appointed as the decedent's PR and what to do with his or her assets.

Nebraska's law states that, without a will, the decedent's PR is decided by a preference schedule. For example:

  1. Someone who dies without a will would have their surviving spouse appointed as his PR.
  2. If someone dies with no surviving spouse, their biological child or children would be next in line for appointment, and so on.

All of this can be difficult to navigate, especially when dealing with the loss of a loved one, but our Lincoln wrongful death attorney can help you weather the storm. You don't have to deal with this alone.

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What Compensation Can a Lincoln Wrongful Death Lawyer Help Me Get?

wrongful death form on table next to handcuffs

A Lincoln wrongful death lawyer can help you to recover damages. These damages include the monetary value of financial support, services, comfort, and companionship that the decedent would have contributed to their spouse or next of kin had they lived. In addition, end-of-life costs, outstanding medical expenses, and funeral and burial costs are often included as factors in settlement negotiations.

This type of claim is only made for recovery of damages suffered by the decedent's close family members or next of kin. Damages to the decedent are not included. However, your Lincoln wrongful death attorney may file a separate action on behalf of the decedent's estate, in which the decedent's damages (pain and suffering, past medical expenses, and funeral expenses) may be claimed.

What Types of Monetary Losses Are Recoverable in an Action?

For losses that have “monetary value,” the next of kin would have lost:

  • financial support
  • help and services

These things have monetary value, since the decedent's absence could force their next of kin to pay for these kinds of services—or else suffer financially—because their loved one is suddenly gone. 

Sometimes, “monetary loss” can be assumed. 

  • When the decedent owed financial support to their child or children.
  • Such a loss must be proven by evidence of support.
  • The decedent's life expectancy typically determines the monetary amount.

Other Types of Losses in a Wrongful Death Claim in Lincoln

Other losses include:

  • emotional comfort
  • companionship

If you and your family are suffering from any of these kinds of losses, you're entitled to monetary compensation in a wrongful death claim. This won't heal the loss you have suffered, but it could relieve some financial stress during your grieving process.

Who Can Claim Monetary Loss in a Wrongful Death Case?

The monetary loss referred to in a wrongful death claim may be inferred when the deceased owed a legal duty to support the claimant (a child or children). However, others may claim this monetary loss if there is evidence that the deceased was providing them with some financial support at the time of death.

All claims for wrongful death must be reduced to a monetary value—even claims for loss of comfort and companionship. While not always easy to assess, the closer the relationship, the greater the monetary loss.

Those persons who would be beneficiaries of the decedent's estate under the statutes of distribution are next of kin. In Nebraska, next of kin beneficiaries fall into the following order:

  • 1st – spouse and children
  • 2nd – parent(s)
  • 3rd – children of parents
  • 4th – grandparents
  • 5th – children of grandparents

How Long Do I Have to File My Wrongful Death Claim?

According to our Nebraska lawyers, a claim must be started or settled within two years after the decedent's death. This means that you must either settle the claim completely or file it in court before this point. Any claim filed after two years will be considered void. Before the two-year mark, your claim must be either:

  • Settled (finalized with the compensation in hand), or
  • Filed in the correct county court. Serving the lawsuit on the negligent defendant may occur later.

How is Loss of Financial Support Calculated?

Calculating the compensation you may receive is complicated; a Lincoln wrongful death attorney can walk you through it. The key in calculating a beneficiary's lost contributions resulting from the decedent's death is the decedent's life expectancy, as well as the life expectancy of the claimant.

  1. Life expectancy
    • The court determines this based on data collected on average. The number is calculated using either the decedent's (the person who passed away) life expectancy or the claimant's (spouse or next of kin)—whoever's is shorter.
    • So, for example, if the decedent was expected to live another 40 years, but the claimant only has a life expectancy of 30 years—the calculation must then be made on the lower of the two life expectancies. In this example, 30 years.
  2. Life expectancy will be determined by something called a “mortality table”
    • Life expectancy is determined by the decedent's physical and mental health immediately before their death.
    • Standardized mortality tables show a person's probability of death based on their age.
    • The settlement will be based on the decedent's probable remaining years.
  3. The calculation will vary from claimant to claimant, based on the situation
    • Did the decedent support a non-working spouse? If so, the amount they provided will be multiplied by the claimant's or decedent's remaining years.
    • Did the decedent support any children? If so, this amount provided will be multiplied by the child's or children's remaining years until the age of majority (legal age of adulthood, which is usually 19 in Nebraska). 
  4. Some things a person is expected to receive won't be considered relevant in the case
    • Inheritance expected
    • The life insurance amount that will be received
    • Worker's compensation benefits

Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyer in Lincoln Today For a Free Consultation

William V. Steffens
Lincoln Wrongful Death Lawyer, William V. Steffens

We know this process isn't easy, and thinking about a legal claim can seem overwhelming as you and your family are still processing this loss. That's why we're here to help you. Our attorneys at Steffens Law are compassionate, knowledgeable, and eager to help. You can take the “legal burden” off your shoulders and put it in our experienced hands. Allowing yourself the space and time you need to heal.

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Don't allow the negligent actions of another to hurt you and your family a second time – in the legal process. If your family has lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence, our experienced Lincoln personal injury lawyer can help your family recover compensation for the pain and suffering you've endured. Contact us online or call (308) 872-8327 to speak with one of our attorneys for a free, no-cost case review today!