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330 East Kilbourn Avenue, Suite 1170
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP



Milwaukee, WI wrongful death lawyerBy Attorney Chris Strohbehn 

In Wisconsin, injury victims have the right to file a personal injury claim seeking compensation from the negligent parties who were responsible for their damages. Unfortunately, not all injury victims survive long enough to initiate the process, let alone benefit from the compensation. However, this does not mean that there is no way of holding the negligent party accountable. The victim’s surviving family members can also pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. If you have recently lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you should be sure to understand your rights to pursue financial compensation.

Protections for Minor Children of the Deceased

According to Wisconsin law, a wrongful death action must be initiated by either the personal representative of the victim’s estate, or the victim’s next of kin who is entitled to compensation. Often, this is the victim’s spouse or domestic partner. However, when the victim has children under the age of 18 at the time of their death, the court responsible for hearing the wrongful death case will seek to ensure that those children have access to the resources they need now that their parent is no longer able to provide them. When determining an appropriate amount to set aside, the court will consider factors including the children’s ages and needs, as well as the capacity of a surviving parent to provide for them.


Milwaukee, WI wrongful death claim lawyerIf your loved one has died due to the fault of another person or business, Wisconsin law states that you may be able to recover certain monetary damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Who Can Recover Compensation?

Wisconsin law only allows certain people to bring wrongful death actions, and it also dictates certain parties who must recover any award of damages in wrongful death actions. Those who may bring a wrongful death action include:

  • The personal representative of the deceased person's estate
  • The surviving spouse of the decedent
  • The domestic partner of the decedent 
  • The child of the decedent
  • The parent or guardian of the decedent

If the decedent left behind a spouse, domestic partner, or one or more children under age 18, the court will set aside a part of any award for the care of the deceased person's dependents. The amount will not be more than 50 percent of the total award.


Wisconsin personal injury attorney, Wisconsin wrongful death lawyer, injury liabilityHome fires are responsible for more than 90 percent of fire fatalities in this country. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were more than 1.3 million house fires in this country in 2011. More than 3,000 people were killed in those fires, and another 17,000 were injured. In addition to the loss of life, these fires caused a total of 1.7 billion dollars in damages.

The most common causes of house fires include:

  • Cooking equipment;
  • Heating equipment;
  • Arson;
  • Electrical wiring or equipment;
  • Smoking materials;
  • Clothes washer or dryer; and
  • Candles.

More than 40 percent of home fires start in the kitchen. Sixteen percent of fire fatalities are a result of kitchen fires. Less than 10 percent of home fires begin in the bedroom, yet these fires result in 25 percent of fire fatalities. Living room fires are responsible for another 25 percent of fire deaths, however, only four percent of home fires begin here.

Wisconsin personal injury attorney, Wisconis wrongful death lawyer, Wisconsin car crashe lawyerWhen someone we loves dies because of the negligent actions of another, or as a result of the wrongful actions of another, it is difficult to see past our grief and investigate to make sure we have a complete understanding of why the death occurred. It is very important, however, to fight the urge to avoid the stress of the situation, and instead to learn all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the death, to ensure that if there is a culpable party, they are held responsible and will therefore be deterred from acting the same way in the future. You may also be entitled to damages for the responsible party’s actions if you can prove those actions caused or contributed to the death of your loved one. Such a lawsuit is called a wrongful death lawsuit, and it is governed by Wisconsin’s wrongful death statute.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Wisconsin?

Depending on the cause of death, there are certain parties that may be entitled to bring a claim for wrongful death after the passing of a loved one. The executor or administrator of the estate may bring a wrongful death claim, and so can any person who has the right to the damages that will be recovered if the action prevails. More specifically, if the person who died was a minor, then the parents or guardians are the parties who are entitled to receive any recovery in a lawsuit, and thus are the parties eligible to bring a wrongful death suit.

If the deceased person was married, then any damages recovered in a wrongful death suit go to the spouse, unless there are any minor children. If there are children under the age of 18, the children may receive up to 50 percent of the recovery for support, and the surviving spouse is entitled to the other 50 percent. If there is no spouse and no children, any damages that are recovered in a lawsuit belongs to any heirs of the deceased, such as parents, adult children, siblings, or grandchildren. Any of these parties are therefore entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

Damages Allowed in a Wrongful Death Claim

Wisconsin injury attorney, Wisconsin accident lawyer, Wisconsin workers injury attorneyThe United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) has finally issued a warning to workers in the coffee processing field, after years of ignoring numerous complaints and reports of unions and workers in that industry. If you work in a facility where you roast, grind, or add flavor to coffee, and work with the chemicals diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione,(also known as acetyl propionyl), this is very important news.

What Is the Danger?

These two chemicals, diacetyl and 2,3-pentanedione, are formed naturally when unflavored coffee is roasted, and the chemicals are released when the coffee is roasted and ground. These chemicals, often added to microwave popcorn to provide the buttery flavor, have been known to cause serious lung disease to workers in microwave popcorn plants, and the most serious bronchial disease caused by exposure has been nicknamed “popcorn lung”. The CDC has been studying exposure to these chemicals for years, and has determined that it is safe to eat the chemicals in trace amounts. It is inhalation of the chemicals that causes damage to the lungs, which is why the inclusion of diacetyl in e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes is at the center of most diacetyl-related controversy these days. Coffee workers, however, inhale diacetyl in much greater amounts than the general population during the roasting and processing of the coffee, and a recent spate of illnesses and deaths of workers in the coffee industry is the reason for the new CDC warning.

What Are the Health Hazards?

Diacetyl has been linked to a rare lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans (“popcorn lung”), and the CDC notice warns that it is often misdiagnosed at the outset, as asthma, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, or even emphysema. While the symptoms may occur gradually, there can also be a sudden onset of the disease, and the CDC warning instructs doctors to consider chemical exposure to diacetyl and 2,3 pentanedione in patients presenting with bronchial illnesses. There are still no guidelines in place regulating diacetyl or 2,3 pentanedione and their use in our food supply, beverages, and other products like e-liquids. It is added to some products, like microwave popcorn, but is naturally occurring in others, like coffee. The coffee industry employs more than 600,000 people in the processing portion of the field throughout the country, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is a significant amount of at-risk people for there not to be any guidelines regarding exposure to dangerous chemicals. Not surprisingly, representatives from the coffee industry have been slow to recognize any dangers posed to their workers from these chemicals. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have implemented a program where one of the agencies will come in free of charge and assess any potential exposure hazards in coffee processing and roasting facilities. The company requesting the testing is allowed to keep its identity confidential if it agrees to fix any problems discovered by the investigator. The director of the Wisconsin Occupation Health Laboratory said his lab had already analyzed some samples from coffee roasting companies in Wisconsin and throughout the nation, and has found levels exceeding safety recommendations, in one case by as much as 14 times the allowed amount.

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