When a loved one is killed in Iowa because of someone else’s fault, well-meaning people often urge family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This suggestion is sometimes made without a clear understanding of the Iowa law governing wrongful death claims. The first step in exploring this legal option is to understand the answers to these three questions.
1. Who Can Receive Compensation in an Iowa Wrongful Death Claim?
Under Iowa law, only certain individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit or receive settlement money for a wrongful death. Generally, the following family members are eligible for compensation after a wrongful death in Iowa:
- The spouse of the person who died;
- The children of the person who died (including adopted children); and/or
- The parents of the person who died.
Siblings, cousins, grandparents or other relatives of the deceased are typically not entitled to wrongful death compensation unless they are beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
2. What Losses Can Be Compensated in an Iowa Wrongful Death Case?
A variety of damages can be recovered in an Iowa wrongful death claim. Because of the way Iowa wrongful death law works, an estate for the deceased must be opened before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. This estate will typically receive any compensation that a settlement or jury trial will bring. Then the compensation will be distributed to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
In Iowa, the estate can seek compensation for losses like:
- Pre-death medical expenses
- Pre-death loss of earnings
- Pre-death physical or mental loss of function or pain and suffering
- Interest on premature funeral expenses
- Lost lifetime earnings
- Loss of household services
- Loss of companionship and guidance (also known as loss of consortium)
3. How Much Time Do I Have to File an Iowa Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There is a legal deadline for filing a wrongful death case in Iowa. It is called a statute of limitations. In Iowa, an eligible family member generally has two years from the anniversary of their loved one’s death to either settle or sue. If legal action has not been taken within that amount of time, a wrongful death claim will usually be forever barred.
That does not mean a family can delay until days or even weeks before the two-year deadline to consult with an Iowa wrongful death lawyer. Several legal steps must be taken before a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. Skipping a step – like opening the deceased’s estate – before filing a wrongful death case can lead to a legitimate case being thrown out of court.
Don’t wait and lose out on rightful compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death. Talk to one of our experienced Iowa wrongful death attorneys today and receive a free, no-obligation case evaluation.