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October 15, 2020

What Is a Wrongful Death Action?

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Posted in General

Personal Injury Lawyer

A wrongful death action, better known as a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, is when someone can be found liable for the death of another person. The death is most frequently caused by an accident where it can be proved that the accident was the direct result of someone’s negligence. For example, a drunk driver who caused a fatal car accident can be sued by the survivors of the deceased because their choice to drink and drive resulted in death. Here’s what is involved in an average claim.

Qualifications for Wrongful Death 

As long as someone can be held responsible for another person’s death, a wrongful death action can be taken. Wrongful death claims can be made even in the case of murder, as this lawsuit is meant to benefit the survivors of the deceased and is separate from the state’s criminal case (a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case). Someone who is the victim of medical malpractice, a car accident, a faulty manufacturer’s product, or a hazard on another’s property is eligible, so long as the other party can be proven negligent.

Proof of Negligence

Operating the same as other negligence claims, the plaintiff (the person bringing the action against another person — in wrongful death, usually the survivors of the deceased), must prove that the defendant acted negligently. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty, so you must have substantial evidence to sway the jury to a guilty verdict. There are four pieces to proving the negligence of the defendant by showing:

  • That they were responsible for maintaining the safety of the deceased
  • That they breached this responsibility in some way
  • That their actions directly caused the death
  • That the death resulted in the damages being sought for compensation

Failing to prove any of these items could lose the lawsuit for the plaintiff, so it is crucial that enough evidence is collected and a clear case is constructed.

Damages That Can Be Claimed

Survivors may have been dependent on the deceased in multiple ways. Children may lose care, support, guidance, financial stability, inheritance, and companionship. Spouses may lose consortium, and other family members may take on the debt of medical expenses and funeral costs. If you’ve suffered from any of these factors, you can claim them, even if they don’t have an exact monetary value. Taking your case to a wrongful death lawyer, like Patterson Bray, can help determine how much you should ask for in a claim.

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