Some accidents kill many people at the same time. Think of a motor vehicle pile-up in which dozens of motorists die because cars slam into each other at high speeds on the freeway. Or imagine defective products which catch on fire or explode, killing multiple people. These are “mass torts,” meaning that many people are hurt and, unfortunately, killed in the accident.
There are legal complications that arise when multiple people die as the result of a defendant’s negligent conduct. Please call Powers & Santola, LLP today to talk with our Albany wrongful death attorney. We have helped many surviving family members bring wrongful death cases, and we are eager to provide accurate legal advice to you and your loved ones during this difficult time.
What Are Mass Torts?
Another term for mass tort might be “multiple victim accident.” A classic mass tort is a plane crash or a multi-car pileup. This type of accident injured dozens of people at pretty much the same time. Another type of mass tort will injure dozens of people in different locations, but a defective device is to blame. Hundreds of people in all 50 states might buy a product with a design or manufacturing defect, and hundreds are injured.
Mass torts are different from class action lawsuits. In the typical class action, one or more people bring a lawsuit on behalf of a larger group of people who have no say in the litigation. The law lets them settle a claim and bind everyone else in the class, provided they receive sufficient notice.
In a mass tort, every victim files their own lawsuit, even if they are suing the same defendant. Mass tort victims need to prove their injuries and damages individually.
Some mass torts also involve wrongful death claims. This is not surprising. Many large-scale accidents are very traumatic, and some people will die from their injuries.
Why These Cases Are Complicated
When bringing a wrongful death claim, you must prove the defendant is responsible for your loved one’s death, usually because the defendant acted negligently. Powers & Santola has decades of combined experience with these claims.
When there are multiple victims, however, a wrongful death case becomes much more complicated. A common defendant will need to defend itself in different courts. For example, we might file a lawsuit against the defendant in Albany because that’s where your loved one was fatally injured by a defective product. But other victims might be in California, Georgia, or Alaska because that’s where their loved ones perished.
Some legal issues with mass tort cases include:
- Difficulty reaching a settlement. When a defendant faces multiple victims, the financial burden of paying out fair settlements could be overwhelming. Some defendants will resist settling a case and instead try to get a case dismissed in court.
- Case consolidation. A court might join individual cases to make it easier on a defendant to defend itself. This is called consolidation, and courts use this technique to keep costs low and improve the efficient handling of claims. Case consolidation sometimes works for a victim, and other times it doesn’t.
- Complicated evidence gathering. Lawsuits have a “discovery” phase where your lawyer can request information from the defendant. When there are multiple lawsuits happening simultaneously, the discovery process can get unwieldy. As an example, we might need to ask questions of a defendant in a deposition, but he needs to fly all over the place. Sometimes, the discovery gets consolidated, and a witness sits for one deposition, with every victim having a lawyer present.
- Bellwether trials. Often, a defendant will litigate at least one case to trial to see how a jury reacts. If the defendant wins, they usually adopt a more aggressive stance with the remaining victims and their families. If they lose, they might feel pressure to settle out of fear of losing all cases that go to trial.
- Extended length. As you can imagine, you might end up waiting years for a case to settle, especially if the defendant wants one or more bellwether trials. This is something we can talk with our clients about.
The good news is that Powers & Santola understands mass tort wrongful death cases. We are not intimidated by businesses which aggressively litigate their claims or refuse to settle. We know how to coordinate with lawyers for other plaintiffs and how to effectively gather the evidence that we need to use for your case.
Examples of Mass Tort Wrongful Death Cases
Some common examples include:
- Defective products which injure hundreds of people
- Dangerous drugs which cause birth defectives or other problems
- Defective medical devices that fail to protect patients and possibly make them sicker
- Environmental accidents, including truck accidents that release toxic substances
- Large-scale accidents, including train or airplane accidents
After these accidents, some lawyers aggressively try to target victims and sell their services. We recommend doing your own research and contacting law firms with a proven history of personal injury and wrongful death cases. Many ambulance chasers lack the experience to handle a mass tort claim and represent victims in these types of accidents. Choosing the right attorney is critical so that your case does not get lost in the shuffle.
Compensation for Mass Accidents
If your loved one died in a large-scale accident, you still qualify for the same compensation that you would if your loved one died in a single-victim accident. Under New York law, you should seek compensation for funeral costs, final medical expenses, and your loved one’s pain and suffering.
Our clients also seek a fair amount of compensation for the income your family has lost due to the death. For example, your spouse might have contributed half of your household’s income, so their death robs you of considerable financial resources.
Contact Our Albany Wrongful Death Attorney
Accident deaths are shocking, and family members should seek out a lawyer who understands the law and the stress you are feeling. Please call Powers & Santola, LLP today.