Wrongful death is a legal term describing the death of someone due to the recklessness or negligence of another person.
Typically, the immediate family members of the deceased victim seek a wrongful death claim or lawsuit to obtain compensation for their emotional and financial damages.
The immediate family usually includes parents, spouses, and children of the deceased victim.
In the article below, we will discuss wrongful deaths and how a wrongful death lawsuit works.
Table of Contents
- The Four Elements
- Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths
- When Is A Wrongful Death Claim Applicable?
- What Has To Be Proven?
- Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
- Wrongful Death Damages
- Contact A Personal Injury Attorney
The Four Elements
There are four key elements involved in wrongful deaths.
Surviving members submitting a claim or filing a lawsuit must prove each element to win a case for financial payment.
The four elements are:
- Negligence: The surviving members or their lawyers must prove the death of their loved one was caused by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligent actions of another party.
- Breach of Duty: To win a wrongful death case, it has to be proved that the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit owed a duty to the deceased victim. For example, all motorists have a responsibility to drive safely. The plaintiff will have to establish how the defendant's duty existed, and that the duty was breached.
- Causation: In addition to proving a breach of duty, the plaintiff must also prove how the defendant's negligence caused their loved one's death.
- Damages: The death of the victim must have generated quantifiable damages such as hospitalization, medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of income, loss of protection, guidance, and inheritance along with the pain and suffering of the victim prior to death.
Proving these points in court requires producing strong and convincing evidence and expert witness testimony presented by a skilled personal injury attorney.
Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths
There are several common causes of wrongful deaths, including:
- Occupational exposure and hazards
- Premises accidents
- Criminal actions including blatant violence, shootings, and stabbings
- Supervised activities including daycare, adult care, and field trips
- Automobile, commercial truck or motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Birth injuries
- Product defects
- Nursing home and assisted living abuse and neglect
When Is A Wrongful Death Claim Applicable?
A wrongful death claim can arise after situations when a victim who would otherwise have a valid personal injury claim is killed as a result of the defendant's wrongful action.
There are several examples of this, including:
- When a victim is intentionally killed
- When a victim dies as a result of medical malpractice
- Car accidents involving negligence
These are just a few examples of personal injury cases that can quickly turn into wrongful death claims.
A wrongful death claim can stem from almost any kind of personal injury situation.
One notable exception may exist for work injuries that result in death.
Those are usually handled exclusively through the worker's compensation system.
What Has To Be Proven?
To hold a defendant liable in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiffs must meet the same burden of proof the victim would have had to meet if they survived.
With negligence, for example, the plaintiffs would have to show that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, and the defendant breached this duty.
Then they would have to prove that the breach was a direct cause of the death and that the death caused the damages that the plaintiff is trying to recover.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?
The wrongful death claim is usually filed by a representative of the estate of the victim on behalf of the survivors who had a relationship with the victim.
The survivors generally include the immediate family of the deceased, but they can vary from state to state.
In every state, though, a spouse can bring a wrongful death case on behalf of their deceased spouse.
Parents of minors may also bring a wrongful death claim if one of their children is killed.
Minors can also collect compensation over the death of a parent.
The states begin to differ outside of those situations.
States differ when it comes to the parents of adult children filing wrongful death claims, adult children filing wrongful death claims for their parents, grown siblings filing wrongful death claims, and so on.
Typically, the more distant the familial relationship is, the harder it'll be to file a wrongful death claim.
In some states, marriage isn't a requirement for a romantic partner of the deceased to bring a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Damages
Damages in a wrongful death claim can include:
- The deceased's pre-death pain and suffering.
- The medical costs that the deceased incurred as a result of the injury before their death.
- Funeral and burial costs of the deceased
- Loss of the deceased person's expected income
- Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death
- Value of the services that the deceased would have provided if they were still living
- Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided if they suuvived
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Contact A Personal Injury Attorney
Wrongful death claims are a very sensitive topic.
They involve the death of a loved one, so it's something we hope no one ever has to go through.
Unfortunately, though, they happen regularly.
If someone you know was killed due to the negligence of someone else, you should contact a personal injury attorney right away.
Your attorney will navigate the legal system to get you the compensation you deserve, so you have time to grieve and mourn the death of your loved one.
Click the button below to get started.