A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit filed against a person or entity who wrongfully caused someone’s death. The goal is to seek compensation for the survivor’s loss of a family member. Wrongful death suits can be complicated and require a lot of proof that the survivor is entitled to compensation. Read on below to learn more about a wrongful death claim.
WHY IS IT WRONGFUL?
The first step is to establish that the death was wrongful. “Wrongful” in this context usually means recklessly, or negligently, but it can also include intentional criminal acts such as murder. Some of the most common wrongful death causes are:
- Automobile and Motorcycle Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Faulty Manufacturing
- Criminal Acts
- Elder Abuse
WHO CAN BRING A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Next, it must be determined if the person filing the lawsuit is eligible to do so. The deceased cannot bring forth the lawsuit themselves, so it is often filed on their behalf by their estate, or by immediate family members who have been directly impacted by the wrongful death. Who qualifies to bring a wrongful death suit varies in each state, but in general, wrongful death claims can be brought by:
- Immediate Family Members, including children and parents
- Distant Family Members (if there are not immediate family members), including grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles.
- The Surviving Spouse
- Personal Representative of the deceased’s Estate
WHAT MUST BE PROVEN?
Typically, in a wrongful death case, the Plaintiff, the party who files the claim, must prove the 4 main elements of negligence.
- Duty of Care. The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant had a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, every driver on the road as a duty to all the other drivers to follow the rules of the road and drive responsibly.
- Breach of Duty of Care. The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant breached that duty of care as evidenced by their actions, or lack of actions.
- The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant’s breach of duty directly or proportionately caused the wrongful death.
- The Plaintiff must prove the wrongful death caused the damages that the estate or family members are now seeking to be compensated for.
HIRE AN ATTORNEY
A wrongful death claim can be difficult on those who just lost a loved one. It can also be complicated and confusing. Sometimes it may even necessitate opening a probate case, which is a whole other area of law. Also, keep in mind that many states place statutes of limitation on wrongful death claims, which means you only have a certain window of time to file. Plus, there are a lot of details that go into filing a wrongful death claim, including deadlines, fees, and negotiations. When looking for an attorney to represent you in a wrongful death claim, look for an experienced attorney who has your rights and well-being in mind.