The 24-hour news networks have become the way Americans look at themselves in a cultural mirror, and what many people have been seeing lately is disturbing. There has been a rise in general violent behavior over the past several years, and that tendency has been showing up in a variety of places. Not only are emergency rooms around the country busier than ever, the rising crime rates also mean more wrongful death cases than ever before. When you look at what has been happening in the United States for the past several years, it is no wonder why wrongful death lawsuits are on the rise.
The National Murder Rate
Whenever there is a rise in any kind of personal injury litigation, it is always a good idea to take a look at the crime rates to see if there is a correlation. For example, the national murder rate had been at it lowest in decades from 2011 to 2014, but then it jumped back up in 2015. While the national murder rate in 2015 was nowhere near what it was in 1970, it still shows an increase in violent crime that is affecting the country.
Murder is one of the more well-publicized reasons that families file wrongful death lawsuits. The famous case of O.J. Simpson saw him get acquitted in his criminal trial, but he wound up losing everything when he lost his civil wrongful death lawsuit to the family of Ron Goldman. When the murder rate is up, it tends to increase the number of wrongful death lawsuits as well.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a personal injury lawsuit initiated when a family believes that one or more parties were negligent in the death of a loved one. For there to be a wrongful death lawsuit, the death of the individual must have brought some kind of financial damage to surviving family members. However, cases like the O.J. Simpson suit show that financial damages are not always necessary when it comes to bringing up a wrongful death lawsuit.
Many wrongful death cases are filed as follow-ups to criminal trials, but that is not always the case. In some instances, family members attempt to bring information to light regarding the negligent death of an individual using a wrongful death lawsuit in the hopes that the information will initiate a criminal investigation. This rarely works and it is not the best reason for initiating a wrongful death litigation.
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The Workplace Injuries Correlation
In the United States, attorneys are allowed to advertise on television and a focus for personal injury attorneys over the past few years has been workplace injuries. Families of construction workers or other types of workers who are in high-risk industries may not realize that the possibility of death is not an accepted part of their loved ones’ jobs. When a loved one dies at work, the instances of wrongful death lawsuits being filed are becoming more common.
The media also shines a spotlight on the medical profession, which sees over 98,000 people die every year due to malpractice. When someone passes away from medical negligence, the family is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent doctor. As the instances of medical malpractice go up, that naturally brings up the number of wrongful death lawsuits around the country.
Is The Pharmaceutical Industry To Blame?
The millions of people affected by negligent pharmaceutical companies is another contributing factor to the increase in wrongful death lawsuits. Recently, the drug Actos was linked to a series of fatal cases of bladder cancer. Each time someone passes away from using a medication, that can initiate a series of wrongful death lawsuits. There have been millions of Actos prescriptions written since 1999, and now each of those prescriptions is a possible wrongful death lawsuit waiting to happen.
There has been a string of pharmaceutical related class action lawsuits occurring recently, and many of them have been linked to substances that cause cancer. In 2016, it was ruled that talcum powder is responsible for causing ovarian cancer in thousands of women around the world. Each person who passes away as a result of exposure to talcum powder could become the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit.
A Closer Look At Medical Malpractice
It seems that finding the core reasons for the increase in wrongful death lawsuits is not necessarily related to crime rates. Many people insist that the medical community is letting society down, which means that the core cause of the rise in wrongful death lawsuits points back to the very people we trust to keep us healthy and alive.
In 2012, there was a medical malpractice payout every 43 minutes in the United States. That is a staggering figure that has only risen over the following years. The Affordable Care Act allowed nearly 20 million people to get health insurance for the first time, and many of those first-time insurance customers decided to get surgical procedures they badly needed to survive. When you look at it from a personal injury perspective, that is 20 million potential new wrongful death cases if every surgery goes wrong.
With more people being approved for surgical procedures, surgeons are forced to work faster to accommodate the rise in patients. A surgeon who is rushed is a surgeon who is going to eventually make a mistake. Those mistakes turn into medical malpractice lawsuits and, in the more unfortunate cases, those medical malpractice cases graduate to becoming wrongful death lawsuits. It is sobering to think that the widespread availability of quality healthcare could wind up being one of the things that make surgical procedures even riskier.
Looking At One Cross-Section Of Crime And Lawsuits
To get an idea as to why wrongful death lawsuits are on the rise, we will look at a cross-section of one area of crime that is on the rise throughout the United States. The Centers for Disease Control reports that eight people every day died from distracted driving in 2013. Since that time, the number has grown significantly. More people die from texting and talking on the phone while driving than they do from drunk driving.
Those statistics are sobering enough, but when you add in the rising numbers of DUI deaths involving alcohol, the numbers become astounding. In November 2016, the number of states that have legalized recreational marijuana has grown to 26, plus the District of Columbia. DUIs involving marijuana, texting, using social media sites while driving, and drunk driving are all on the rise and they are all candidates for wrongful death lawsuits.
Populations Putting Each Other At Risk
When someone dies due to someone else’s negligence, the family of the victim has the option to seek justice in the civil courts through a wrongful death lawsuit. You could explain the rise in the number of wrongful death cases by simply accounting for the general rise in the American population. But there is much more to the problem than just the presence of more people.
Now, more than ever, there are more legal ways for Americans to become irresponsible with their behavior and potentially take the life of another human being. Doctors and drug companies are putting profits in front of patient health and the results are becoming fatal. It appears that people are taking the opportunities given to them to be fatally irresponsible to others, and they are making the most of those opportunities.