What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death?

When a person dies due to the misconduct, negligence, or intentional harm of another person, surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil court action requiring grounds (a legally supported reason) for filing.

Wrongful death lawsuits aim to prove that not only did the deceased lose his/her life due to the negligence of another, but also that his/her family members were directly affected emotionally and financially due to the death. Therefore, wrongful death cases will determine the financial compensation the family members should receive.

How Does Someone Prove Wrongful Death?

To be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit, some elements must be proven:

  • The person’s death was caused by neglect or wrongful conduct.
  • The surviving family members have suffered measurable damages as a result of the death.

If a victim, who would have otherwise been able to file a personal injury claim had he/she survived, dies as a result of the action of another, a “survivorship” claim is appropriate.

Common grounds for wrongful death lawsuits may arise out of a number of circumstances:

  • Medical malpractice death
  • Vehicle fatalities
  • Exposure to toxic/hazardous work conditions
  • Death during a supervised activity

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Every state has a wrongful death statute or set of statutes that set the standards for actions against wrongful death. A lawsuit for wrongful death may be brought by a representative of the estate of the deceased, including:

  • A spouse
  • Parents of minors
  • Extended family members, such as grandparents and siblings (in some states)
  • Any person named as executor of the estate

What Damages Can Be Awarded?

Once a death has been proven to be the result of a wrongful act, damages can be collected for the following:

  • Medical bills incurred prior to death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death
  • Lost wages and expected income
  • Mental anguish endured by the survivors
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Punitive damages intended to punish the offender and discourage similar actions (in some states)

If you believe that may have a wrongful death claim, contact us for a free consultation. We will help you understand your legal rights and determine if you should pursue a lawsuit.