How Does a Wrongful Death Case Work?
A wrongful death claim is a type of litigation filed when someone dies as a result of the defendant’s carelessness or intent.
Wrongful death claims are taken against a defendant who has caused the death of another person, either via negligence or through deliberate action. Wrongful death claims allow a deceased person’s estate and/or family members to sue the party that is legally responsible for their death. Though wrongful death laws differ by state, these types of cases are typically filed by a representative of the deceased person’s estate, generally on behalf of surviving family members.
When Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
When a victim who would otherwise have a viable personal injury claim is killed as a result of the defendant’s wrongful action, a wrongful death claim can be filed. This can happen in a number of circumstances, including:
When a victim is killed on purpose. For the unfortunate killings of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, for example, O.J. Simpson was sued in civil court. The victims’ families filed civil claims in addition to the state’s criminal case against Simpson.
When a victim of medical negligence dies as a result of the misconduct. If a doctor fails to identify a problem or is negligent in the level of treatment provided, and a patient dies as a result, the doctor may be held liable for wrongful death.
Negligence-related car accidents have resulted in fatalities. A wrongful death claim may be filed if a victim dies as a result of vehicle accident injuries.
These are just a few examples of wrongful death lawsuits that can arise from personal injury situations. A wrongful death claim can arise from practically any type of personal injury event, with the exception of work-related deaths, which must normally be addressed entirely through the worker’s compensation system.
What must be demonstrated?
To hold the defendant accountable in a wrongful death action, the plaintiffs (typically the estate of the deceased victim) must bear the same burden of proof that the victim would have faced if the victim had lived. So, in the case of negligence, this entails proving that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty, that the violation was a direct and proximate cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages sought by the plaintiff.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death suit is typically filed on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the deceased person by a representative of the victim’s estate. The exact nature of those survivors differs from jurisdiction to state.
A spouse may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of his or her deceased spouse in any state. Minors can sue for wrongful death if one of their children is murdered, and parents can sue for wrongful death if one of their children is killed. States differ on whether parents of adult children can sue, whether adult children can sue for their parents’ wrongful death, whether grown siblings can sue for wrongful death, and if extended family such as cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents can sue. The more distant the family relationship, the more difficult it is to obtain a legal remedy through a wrongful death case.
In some states, the deceased’s romantic partner, as well as anyone who can establish financial dependency on the deceased, can file a wrongful death claim (marriage isn’t required, in other words).
Damages for Wrongful Death
In a wrongful death claim, damages—categories of losses for which a survivor may be compensated—include:
Pre-death “pain and suffering” of the departed (this is often called a “survival” claim).
the costs of medical treatment that the dead victim incurred before to death as a result of the injury funeral and burial costs
loss of the dead’s expected income loss of any inheritance due to the death value of the services the deceased would have supplied loss of care, direction, and nurturing that the deceased would have offered loss of love and companionship, and loss of consortium.