Every now and then, I run across someone who lost a loved one because of a defective product or drug or due to an auto accident, but who doesn’t feel it’s “right” to file a product liability lawsuit. They sometimes tell me they’d feel wrong getting “blood money” from a loved one’s death, or that it would feel weird, or any number of other excuses that often boil down to guilt.
I thought I’d address some common arguments against filing a wrongful death lawsuit:
- No amount of money will bring them back. Imagine your loved one was shot to death and you saw who did it. Would you refuse to testify against the shooter because no amount of jail time would bring your loved one back? Of course not. You’d testify to make sure that the shooter is punished for killing someone.
- It’s “blood money.” Then so is a life insurance policy. Most responsible people get life insurance policies to make sure that their loved ones are taken care of when they die. You can’t on one hand think it’s OK to accept a life insurance check from an insurer who wasn’t responsible for someone’s death, but not OK to accept money from a company that was.
- I don’t want my loved one’s name dragged through the mud. That’s generally not going to be an issue unless your loved one did some very bad things. No responsible defense attorney is going to try to win his case by making your loved one out to be a bad person. It doesn’t play well with a jury.
- It’s a lot of hassle. Yes, filing a lawsuit can be a hassle. But if you truly believe your loved one’s death doesn’t justify some hassle on your part, well…
- It wouldn’t feel right to spend the money. See the argument above about life insurance and “blood money”. But if that isn’t enough, then when you get the money, give it away to a charity. Build a monument to your loved one – a big granite obelisk that will endure for 1,000 years. Or get all the money in a big pile and burn it. The important thing isn’t what you do with the money, it’s making sure that it gets taken away from the negligent company. A company cannot feel guilt. But it can feel pain if you take away some of its money.
- I want closure. Closure is a psychological thing that has nothing to do with whether you file a lawsuit. It will come in its own time. If anything, making the negligent company pay for what they did might bring you some closure.
- There are too many frivolous lawsuits as it is. If someone you care about died and it wasn’t their fault, it’s not a frivolous lawsuit. Building a wrongful death lawsuit can cost your attorney well over $100,000 dollars. He or she will only get that money back if you recover more than that. Do you see why attorneys have a strong incentive not to file frivolous cases?
And finally, imagine if a defective product killed you, or you or a loved one were killed or injured in an auto accident. Wouldn’t you want your loved ones to be taken care of financially? I know I would.
I know I’d also want my loved ones to hire the most tenacious, aggressive trial lawyer available to make the company or negligent party that killed me pay through the nose. I don’t know about you, but the idea of dying in vain doesn’t appeal to me. The decision of whether to file a lawsuit is a personal one. If you don’t want to do it, then that’s your decision.
But don’t let a useless concept of guilt prevent you from filing a wrongful death suit. We all know that company execs or wrong-doing parties don’t let guilt stop them from doing everything they can to sweep your loved one’s death under the rug.