It’s hard enough to lose someone you love, but what can make this experience especially painful is when you know their death could have been prevented. These tragic deaths can occur due to criminal acts, medical malpractice, or personal negligence such as in a car accident. In fact, in 2021, 16 people died from motor vehicle crashes in Maui County alone, and there were 94 total car accident deaths in the state that year. 

If your loved one was killed due to the negligence or misconduct of someone else, call Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law today to discuss your options for filing a wrongful death claim. From our office in Maui, Hawaii, we’ve been serving clients since 1989 and can help your family pursue the damages due to you. Call us today to schedule a consultation.



Why File a Wrongful Death Claim?

It’s common for family members to feel apprehensive about filing a wrongful death lawsuit. After all, there’s nothing you can do that will ever bring your loved one back, and it can feel like a futile pursuit. However, there is a measure of healing to be had by pursuing even a piece of justice, however small. By filing a wrongful death claim, you can hold the responsible parties accountable and help ensure this doesn’t happen to other families. If the death was caused by the negligence of someone else, your claim may help prevent them from acting the same way in the future. 

Additionally, the costs associated with the death of a family member can be enormous and long-lasting, from medical bills to funeral expenses to lost income. A successful claim can provide your family with much-needed financial aid during this time so you won’t have to worry about making ends meet and can instead focus on your healing. 

What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Hawaii?

The state of Hawaii defines wrongful death as any death “caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person. Although this can happen in many circumstances, the three most common are negligent acts by someone else, medical malpractice, or intentional criminal acts. In all these instances, there may be concurrent criminal court proceedings happening as well, but with a wrongful death claim, you can only pursue damages (financial compensation) for the family. Any penalties like jail time, fines, or restitution will be handled in a criminal court. Claimants have two years from the date of the death to file a claim, and if you go past this statute of limitations, your case is likely to be dismissed by a judge. 

Additionally, it can often be easier to prove liability in a wrongful death claim than it would be in a criminal proceeding. By state law, a wrongful death claim only needs to prove that the defendant is guilty “by a preponderance of the evidence” in order to receive damages. In a criminal court, you have to prove fault “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a much higher bar to clear. Because of this, some families who may have felt they didn’t receive the closure or justice they needed in a criminal court may still be able to get the compensation they deserve by filing a wrongful death claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Hawaii?

Because the injured party has passed away, the claim must be filed by someone else. This is usually a family member such as a surviving spouse, children, or parents. However, there are other cases when someone not related to the deceased can file. Hawaii state law allows anyone who was partially or fully dependent on the deceased person at the time of their death to file. Or, if the deceased had already named a legal representative in a will or other estate planning document, they can also file a claim on behalf of their estate.

Damages Available

Typically, you can seek any reasonable expenses that are related to your loved one’s death. This could cover lost income that your family member provided as well as future earnings and benefits that you’ll now miss out on. It can also cover medical bills and funeral and burial expenses. Additionally, surviving family members can also seek non-economic damages such as loss of consortium or pain and suffering.


If you’ve experienced a tragic loss, we know there’s little that can be done to make your family whole again. But, even taking a step to bring those liable for the accident to some kind of justice can be beneficial. No one should have to go through this kind of hardship alone. If you live in Maui, Hawaii, and would like to speak to a wrongful death attorney, call Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law today to get started.