Recently, a Mississippi teenager passed away after suffering injuries in an SUV rollover accident in a church parking lot at night. The teen was a passenger in the SUV. The driver was backing up and overcorrected. The SUV rolled over, pinning the teen beneath. If your child or spouse was killed in a rollover accident, you are likely suffering immense grief. It may be appropriate to bring a wrongful death suit.
In Mississippi, a wrongful death is one that is caused by a wrongful or negligent act or omission, unsafe machinery or appliances, or breach of any warranty of fitness of an item intended for human consumption. In a rollover accident, there may be negligent conduct on the part of a driver, but there may also be a manufacturing defect.
Negligent conduct by a driver that could cause a rollover includes unsafe operation of a vehicle. To prove negligence on the part of a driver, parents of a deceased teenager will need to prove the driver's duty to their child, the driver's breach of that duty, actual and proximate causation, and damages. However, sometimes a manufacturer or product designer's faulty design can cause the rollover. A vehicle's tires can also cause a rollover due to tread separation.
Product liability cases turn on crucial expert testimony regarding the defects in the product that caused the accident. There are three standards under which liability can be determined in a product liability case: strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty. Strict liability holds a manufacturer responsible for a defective product-such as an SUV prone to rollovers-even when the manufacturer was not negligent. As such, it can be an easier standard to meet than negligence if a reputable expert believes there was a defect in the vehicle. All products come with an implied warranty under which they are presumed safe for an intended use, such as being driven in a parking lot.
In Mississippi, a wrongful death claim can be brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate, the surviving spouse of the decedent, the surviving parent of the decedent, and any surviving siblings of the decedent. When the decedent is a teenager with no children, his or her surviving parents can bring a wrongful death claim.
Liability in a wrongful death claim is separate from criminal liability. It is expressed by monetary damages paid by the defendant, not by jail time. Depending on what investigation reveals about whose fault an accident was, the defendants might include the driver of the vehicle that rolled over, the manufacturer or designer of the vehicle that rolled over, or more than one party.
When a wrongful death suit involves parents bringing suit on behalf of a deceased teenager, the damages paid may be different than those in a wrongful death suit involving an adult. The damages may include medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, payments for damaged property, and noneconomic damages like loss of companionship and pain and suffering. Noneconomic damages are damages that require a subjective assessment by a jury. Noneconomic damages associated with product liability claims are capped at $1 million in Mississippi.
Strict timelines apply to Mississippi wrongful death lawsuits. When a death is caused by an intentional act like a battery, the wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the date of death. However, if the death was caused by negligence, a wrongful death claim needs to be filed within three years of the date of death.
If a loved one is killed due to a rollover or other motor vehicle accident, the experienced Mississippi personal injury attorneys of Coxwell & Associates may be able to build a strong case on your behalf. Contact us for a consultation.
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