A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person. The person-at-fault could be the driver at fault in a car accident or a bartender who served alcohol to a drunk driver, among others.

Wrongful death claims are basically brought against a defendant who has caused someone’s death either negligently or deliberately. These claims allow the estate of the deceased person to file a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death. The suit is typically filed by a person who is a valid representative of the estate. He or she files the lawsuit on behalf of surviving family members and other affected parties. Originally, wrongful death statutes were created to provide financial support for widows and orphans.

A wrongful death claim applies when a victim who would otherwise have a personal injury claim is killed as a result of either negligence or an intentional harmful act on the part of the defendant. This can happen in many kinds of situations such as:

  • When the victim is killed deliberately or intentionally
  • When the victim gets deceased due to medical malpractice
  • Car accident that caused death of one person or more due to negligence

These are the most common examples of personal injury cases that can convert into wrongful death claims. A wrongful death claim is one that builds up from almost any kind of personal injury situation. If work injuries result in death, it is usually dealt with through the worker’s compensation system.

The plaintiff or plaintiffs in the claim must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet had the victim lived. This is essential in order to hold the defendant liable in a wrongful death claim. This implies showing that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages that the plaintiff is trying to recover.

Usually, a wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the estate of the deceased victim. The filing is done on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the victim. It varies from state to state as to who those survivors can be.

Whether State laws provide for recovery by a surviving spouse, immediate family members, children, and even parents of a deceased fetus, it all depends on your state’s wrongful death statute. In general, a spouse may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of his or her deceased spouse. Parents of minors may also bring a wrongful death action if one of their children is killed. Minors can collect compensation for the death of their parents. It gets tougher to show that you should be allowed to collect wrongful death damages when your relation with the deceased is a distant familial relationship. In certain states, the life partner of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim. Same goes for anyone who can show financial dependence on the deceased.

As far as damages are concerned in a wrongful death claim, here is a list of the categories of losses for which a survivor might be able to receive compensation:

  • The deceased person’s pre-death pain and suffering isreferred to as a survival claim in a wrongful death case.
  • The medical costs that the deceased victim incurred as a result of the injury before death
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • 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
  • Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided
  • Loss of love and companionship, and
  • Loss of consortium.

In case someone dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, the survivors may sue for wrongful death. These types of lawsuits look for compensation for the survivors’ loss, such as lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.

Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or set of statutes that establishes the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent’s death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awards from these actions belong to the estate. These might pass to different parties eventually as directed by the decedent’s will.

Wrongful death lawsuits usually come after a criminal trial, using similar evidence, but are held to a lower standard of proof.

In order to successfully bring a wrongful death cause of action, the plaintiff must show the following:
  • The death of a human being
  • Caused by another person’s or party’s negligence, or with intent to cause harm
  • The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
  • The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate

Whether physical or financial, injury is the main measure of damages when it comes to a wrongful death action. As per stated by the Courts,” pecuniary injuries” include the loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Most laws state that the damages awarded for a wrongful death shall be fair and just compensation for the pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent’s death. If the distributees paid for the decedent’s funeral or medical care, they may also recover those expenses. Also, a damage award will include interest from the date of the decedent’s death.

Very few wrongful death lawsuits ultimately are tried before a jury. Since the litigation is expensive, lawyers often work out settlement deals to stay away from costly trials. Lawyers certainly go for better plea bargains than the defendant could receive on his or her own.

You must contact an experienced and reliable personal injury attorney like the Mark Schiffrin P.A. before filing a lawsuit in this context. Make sure to contact the attorney as early as possible to be able to file the case before the arrival of the deadline. Make sure to discuss your legal rights and your potential case.