A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed when someone is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another person. Whoever brings the wrongful death claim must be able to prove that the defendant was negligent or intentionally caused the victims death. While it is common for criminal charges to be filed when there is a loss of life, wrongful death lawsuits are a civil action that are separate from criminal charges.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death can occur in many situations, the most common causes of wrongful death are:
· Motor vehicle accidents- If a victim dies as a result of injuries sustained in a car or motorcycle accident.
· Medical malpractice- If a victim dies due to a failed diagnosis, surgical error, anesthesia error or any other breach of the doctor’s duty to provide an acceptable standard of care to the patient.
· Product defects- If a victim dies as a result of a defect in the design, development or manufacturing of a product.
· Bicycle accidents– If a victim dies due to being hit, clipped or run over by a vehicle.
· Work related accidents- If a victim dies as a result of an injury sustained on the job. For example, an explosion, fall, burn, electrocution or long-term exposure to chemicals.
· Criminal acts- If a victim dies as a result of assault, domestic violence or a shooting.
· Trucking accidents- If a victim dies due to an accident where a semi-truck was carrying an oversized load, had mechanical issues or driver error.
When can a wrongful death claim be filed?
A wrongful death case can be filed when the victim would have had a valid personal injury claim had they not died due to the defendant’s negligence or intentional act.
To be able to hold a defendant liable for wrongful death, you must be able to meet the same burden of proof that would have had to be met if the victim had lived. In order to bring about a successful wrongful death claim, these four elements must be present:
1. Negligence- The defendant caused the death of the victim, either through negligence or intentional actions.
2. Breach of duty- The defendant owed a duty to the victim and this duty was breached due to negligent or intentional acts.
3. Causation- Plaintiffs must prove how the negligent or intentional act caused the death of their loved one.
4. Damages- The death of a loved one resulted in damages, including but not limited to: medical expenses, burial and funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of future earnings, loss of comfort, loss of consortium, pain and suffering and loss of companionship.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
The person who can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the victim depends on their state. In all states, parents of minor children, spouses and minor children filing on behalf of a deceased parent can file wrongful death claims.
Some states allow the following to file wrongful death claims:
· Parents of adult children
· Adult children filing on behalf of their parents
· Adult siblings
· Extended family
· Unmarried romantic partners
· Anyone who can show financial dependence on the victim
In order to determine if you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, you must check the laws in your state and confirm what the relationship requirements are to file a wrongful death lawsuit.