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What is the Legal Definition of Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is when someone dies due to negligence or carelessness by the fault of another person or entity, or if someone is killed on purpose. A wrongful death claim can be filed by a family member of the person killed in order to get money for damages the death caused the person filing.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit that seeks to hold a person or entity liable for their negligence, and repay a family for the damages the wrongful death caused. The majority of these lawsuits arise from car accidents or medical malpractice. In order to file a wrongful death claim, the person must have proof of monetary hardships caused by the death of their loved one. These usually range from medical or funeral expenses to loss of future income or benefits. Those filing a wrongful death claim typically must show:

  • That the person they are suing caused the death, completely or in part, of the victim
  • Proof that the person they are suing was careless or negligent when they caused the death, or that they are responsible for the death as a matter of the law
  • That the victim’s spouse, dependents or beneficiary is alive
  • That the victim’s death has caused monetary loss, for which compensation is being sought

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

The person suing for wrongful death must be related to the victim in some way. Below are the relatives that may have the ability to file a wrongful death claim:

  • The spouse of the victim
  • The child of the victim
  • The parent of the victim
  • In some cases, a grandparent, legal dependent or member of their extended family can also sue for wrongful death

What damages can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Below are damages suffered from the victim’s loved ones that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Immediate expenses associated with the death such as funeral and medical expenses
  • Loss of the victim’s future income and other earnings
  • Loss of the victim’s benefits
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Pain and suffering and mental anguish the death caused the victim’s family
  • Loss of care or protection
  • Punitive damages
  • General damages

If you lost a loved one due to negligence, contact a personal injury attorney here.


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