A claim for wrongful death in Montana is created by § 27-1-513, MCA which describes a cause of action that may be brought be the heirs of the decedent (the person who passed away). In its most basic form, wrongful death is when someone dies because of the actions of another person. Fatal automobile accidents, botched surgeries, even rock climbing accidents can all lead to wrongful death claims.
One purpose of a wrongful death case is to compensate the heirs for the harm or damages they personally suffered as a result of the death. Generally, in a wrongful death claim, the heirs may recover for loss of consortium, loss of comfort and society, and the value of the contributions the decedent would have made to the heirs’ support education, training, and care. This last section is sometimes described as lost wages, but that’s not entirely correct. Because wrongful death is focused on the survivors, that section actually deals with what percentage of the decedent’s earnings could have been passed on to the survivors.
The damages for wrongful death are the damages of the heirs which occur because of the wrongful death. They are not damages that were sustained by the decedent. Those may be recovered as well, but in a separate action known as a survivorship claim. These two claims are closely related, but focus on different aspects of the law.
Ironically, the survivorship action focuses on the person who died while the wrongful death claim is for the living.
If you believe you have a wrongful death claim it is important that you act quickly. Waiting too long can impair your attorney’s ability to investigate and develop your case, but it could also completely end things before they even start. MOntana has a three year statute of limitations on wrongful death cases. This means that a wrongful death claim mud the brought within 3 years or it can never be pursued. The time starts running upon the death of the victim.
But why wait at all? Most wrongful death attorneys offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case and explain your rights. Obviously I hope you will contact the wrongful death lawyers at Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O’Brien, P.C., but whatever you decide, please see someone sooner than later.