Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Wrongful Death in Iowa

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  • Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa?

    Only certain people have standing to sue in court after a wrongful death.

    The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit belongs to the estate of the person who died. Thus, it is the personal representative of the estate who has the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa. If the person who died had a will, then the will likely named the personal representative, who will have the legal right to start the lawsuit. If the person who died did not have a will at the time of death, then the court will appoint a personal representative so that a potential wrongful death case can move forward.

    If your loved died, then it is important to find out who the personal representative is and to express your opinion about pursuing a wrongful death claim—or to take action if you are the personal representative.

    Filing a Lawsuit Is Not the Same as Recovering Damages

    While the estate has the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the estate is a legal entity, not a person. Thus, wrongful death law allows certain relatives to recover damages in a wrongful death case. This includes close relatives such as spouses, children, and parents—regardless of whether or not they are the personal representative of the estate.

    It’s Important to Know Your Rights

    If a person who does not have legal standing to file a case attempts to file a complaint in court, then the defense will make a motion to dismiss the case—which the court will likely grant. This will delay your just recovery and be an unnecessary step in the wrongful death process.

    For more information about how a wrongful death claim works in Iowa or for help filing your own claim, please contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer. We are available to take your call any time, and we would be pleased to schedule a free consultation with you at your convenience.

  • Can I sue for the death of my unborn child after an Iowa accident results in their death?

    The wrongful death of an unborn or newborn child is tragic and unjust.

    You have suffered a tragic loss and Iowa law allows you to recover damages for the loss of your child during pregnancy. However, the rules for recovering damages after the loss of an unborn child are not the same as they are for other people, and it is important to understand your rights so that you can take the right actions within the required time to protect you rights.

    Wrongful Death Law Only Applies If Your Child Lived

    In Iowa, the wrongful death law only applies if your child lived outside of the womb. Thus, if your child was born early because of an accident and your child survived birth, then you may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death action.

    However, this doesn’t always happen after an accident. Instead, your pregnancy may not have been far enough along for your child to survive, or your child may have suffered fatal injuries in utero that prevented his survival outside of the womb. If your child did not survive birth, then an estate cannot be established for your child, and therefore, a wrongful death case cannot be brought.

    Wrongful Death Is Not the Only Way Legal Recovery Available

    As a parent, you may still have the right to recover even if your child did not survive the accident. Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 8 allows parents to recover for the loss of child, rather than the child’s estate to recover for the loss of the child. A parent may recover for actual expenses and for the loss of society and companionship that come from losing a child.

    Your loss is unique, and so too is your recovery. Accordingly, it is important to understand how a wrongful death claim works and how to protect your rights after the loss of an unborn child due to someone else’s negligence. Let our experienced and empathetic attorneys help you during this difficult time. Simply reach out to us any time—24/7/365—via this website or by phone to schedule your free consultation.

  • Can I recover for emotional suffering after the wrongful death of a loved one in Iowa?

    Your suffering after a wrongful death may be grounds for a damage award in Iowa.

    The grief and emotional suffering that follow the death of a loved one are often the most significant damages that you face after a fatal crash, but they may be among the most difficult to prove. Iowa law may allow you to recover for your emotional loss and for the suffering your loved one endured from the time of the accident until the time of death, but in order to recover these damages, you need to know how to do it.

    An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you gather the relevant evidence and fight for the full and fair recovery that you deserve.

    What Will the Court Consider?

    When considering emotional suffering, the court may consider and grant damages for:

    • The suffering your loved one endured from the time of the accident until the time of his death. The length of time between the accident and your loved one’s death, how aware your loved one was of his injuries and prognosis, and other factors will be relevant in determining the amount of damages that can be recovered by the estate for your loved one’s emotional suffering.
    • The emotional suffering of the spouse and children. This is included in loss of consortium damages and includes loss of affection. Your loved one’s character, the way that your loved one conducted himself as a parent or spouse, and other factors may be considered by the court when determining these damages.
    • Loss of companionship and society of a minor child. Parents may recover for the emotional suffering that they experience if their minor child dies in a wrongful death accident. The child’s character, personality, and other factors may be considered in determining these damages.

    These damages may be significant, but they are only part of the total amount of compensation that you may recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important to protect all of your rights going forward. If you would like to learn more about your rights and potential recovery, please contact us directly via this website or by phone at any time.

  • Are punitive damages possible in an Iowa wrongful death case?

    Iowa law determines whether punitive damages will be available for your wrongful death claim

    Yes. While not every wrongful death case filed in Iowa will result in an award of punitive damages, it is possible to recover punitive damages in an Iowa wrongful death case.

    The Iowa wrongful death law is a survival law. The courts have held that the representative bringing the lawsuit should have all of the legal remedies that the decedent would have had if he had lived. Thus, in 1975 the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that if the deceased could have recovered punitive damages had he lived, then punitive damages may be available in an Iowa wrongful death case.

    When Can Punitive Damages Be Awarded?

    While punitive damages are possible in a wrongful death action, they are not automatic. Many wrongful death cases end with an award of other kinds of wrongful death damages, but not punitive damages.

    Punitive damages may be awarded against a defendant if the defendant acted in a wanton, willful, reckless, and grossly negligent manner when committing the action (or inaction) that led to your loved one’s death.

    In order to meet this standard and recover punitive damages in an Iowa wrongful death case, you are going to need to present evidence and make persuasive arguments about why the defendant’s actions were wanton, willful, reckless and grossly negligent. For example, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant is a drunk driver who killed your loved one in a crash.

    Protect Your Fair Recovery

    In some states, punitive damages do not survive the death of the injured person. However, in Iowa punitive damages may be awarded in wrongful death claims and you have the right to protect your recovery of all damages including punitive damages.

    Punitive damages may allow you to hold the person who killed your loved one accountable. If you are interested in learning more about your rights and your potential recovery then we encourage you to contact us directly via this website or by phone to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer.

  • How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa?

    Only a brief time is available to sue in court after a wrongful death.

    When you lose a loved one, you need time to grieve. Your thoughts are on your loss, not on lawsuits. However, your time to file a lawsuit is not unlimited. Accordingly, you need to begin thinking about the pros and cons of filing a wrongful death lawsuit so that you can take action before the statute of limitations expires.

    In Most Cases You Have Two Years to File a Claim

    An Iowa wrongful death claim may be filed after any death that is caused by the negligence or wrongful act of an individual, business, or government agency.

    However, Iowa law does not give grieving families an unlimited amount of time to consider whether or not they want to file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations in Iowa requires that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the death. A case does not officially begin until a complaint is filed with the court.

    The statute of limitations will not be extended if a criminal case is pending against the potential defendants for your loved one’s death, it will not be extended if you didn’t know about the statute of limitations, and it will not be extended if you have been trying to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company.

    What Happens If You Miss the Deadline?

    If you miss the statute of limitations deadline for one of the reasons described above—or for most other reasons—then the defendants will file a motion with the court to dismiss your complaint when you do file it, and the court will grant that motion. Your case will be dismissed without any recovery of damages and without the opportunity to seek damages in the future.

    Since it takes a significant amount of time to prepare a wrongful death case, the sooner you call a wrongful death lawyer, the better. Do not wait until the statute of limitations is about to expire. Instead, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about how a wrongful death case works in Iowa.

  • My mom recently died in a nursing home. I want to schedule a free consultation with you, but what happens if I don’t hire you?

    You ask a good question, and you likely have many more.

    If your mom died in a nursing home and you believe that her death was caused by nursing home abuse or negligence then you may want to know why it happened. You may want to know more about your rights, or what you should do next.

    But You Can’t Make a Commitment Until You Have All the Facts

    We not only understand that, but we support it. We believe that you, and your family, need to know whether you have a potential case, and whether you should pursue that case if you have one.

    An initial meeting with a nursing home abuse lawyer is an important step in finding out the answers to that question. At our firm, an initial meeting is a chance for:

    • You to ask our lawyers questions.
    • Our lawyers to ask you questions.
    • Us to meet and get to know one another.

    It is not a commitment. By coming in for a free consultation, you are not agreeing to hire us—nor are we agreeing to represent you. Instead, it is an informational meeting. If we think that you do not have a legal claim then we will tell you that and we will not represent you or your mother’s estate. Likewise, if you decide that you do not want to hire us then you can just walk away. Of course, if you do have a potential case and you do want to hire us, then we can talk about the next steps in the process.

    To find out more, or to schedule your free consultation, please start a live chat with us today.

  • Can my sister and I each file our own wrongful death case if our mom was killed in a car accident?

    No. We understand that sometimes siblings have conflicts and you may have different ideas about how to handle a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit does not belong to either of you personally.

    In Iowa, That Right Belongs to Your Mother’s Estate

    It is the administrator of your mother’s estate who has the legal right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. While you and your sister are certainly suffering from your mother’s death, it was your mother who suffered the actual injury and it is her estate that has standing to bring a lawsuit. Thus, it is up to the administrator of your mother’s estate to:

    • Hire a wrongful death attorney
    • File the wrongful death lawsuit
    • Make legal decisions related to the lawsuit
    • Distribute any settlement or damages that come from the lawsuit

    The administrator of the estate may be you, it may be your sister, or it may be a third party. Generally, the administrator is the person who is named as the executor in your mother’s will. However, if your mother died without a will, then an administrator may be appointed by the court.

    You and Your Sister May Still Recover Damages

    Even though you may not have the authority, or standing, to bring a lawsuit, you may still recover damages if the estate is successful in its claim. To find out more about your potential recovery, please talk to the administrator of the estate and please browse the related links available on this page.