Wrongful death claims are claims brought against people or companies that caused somebody’s death, either as a result of intentional action or through negligence. Wrongful death claims enable those close to the deceased to sue the party legally liable for the death. A person representing the deceased’s estate makes the wrongful death claim, most times, on behalf of the surviving affected family members.
Read on for a detailed guide on how to go about wrongful death claims; from eligibility to who makes a claim and how to prove causation.
Applicability of a Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death claims arise in situations where the deceased would have otherwise had a valid personal injury claim from the defendant if they had not died as a result of the defendant’s illegal action. Such a situation may occur in several ways:
- When the killing of the deceased was intentional
- When the deceased’s death resulted from medical malpractice
- When the victim died in a car accident involving negligence
The above are just examples, as many more personal injury-like situations may turn into a wrongful death claim. So, many conditions may lead to this kind of claim. A notable exception, however, may exist in work injuries that lead to death. Usually, deaths at work fall under worker’s compensation.
Essentials of a Wrongful Death Claim
To prove the defendant’s liability in the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff needs to meet an equal burden of proof as the victim would have, had they lived. This proof requirement means proving that the defendant, indeed, owed the deceased a duty of care.
Next, is to show a breach of this duty, which directly caused the victim’s death. Finally, one needs to prove that death caused the damages the plaintiff is claiming in the suit. A wrongful death attorney can help achieve this.
Who Files a Wrongful Death Claim?
A representative of the deceased’s estate files the wrongful death claim on behalf of survivors that have a relationship with the victims. The applicable survivors depend on a state’s specific laws. In all states, a spouse is viable to claim on the deceased’s behalf.
Parents of a minor may also bring a claim for the wrongful death of either child. Minors may also claim and collect compensation for the wrongful death of their parents. State laws on whether adult children may sue for their parents’ wrongful death and whether parents may sue over adult children’s death vary from state to state. Usually, the more distant the familial relationship, the harder it is to compensate for wrongful death.
In some states, even the deceased’s romantic partner may claim wrongful death. Provided you have an excellent attorney to prove your financial dependence on the victim.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
Damages in a wrongful death claim refer to the category of losses that a survivor may receive as compensation:
- The deceased’s pre-death suffering
- The costs of medical treatment if incurred by the deceased before death
- The burial and funeral costs
- The loss of the expected income from the deceased
- Any inheritance lost as a result of the death
- Loss of the guidance, care, and nurturing the survivor would have received from the deceased
- Loss of companionship and love due to the death of the deceased
- Value of all the services that the deceased would have provided
Contact an Attorney and Make a Claim
Different states will impose other guidelines on who can pursue a wrongful death claim. However, a wrongful death claim in all states is a suit seeking a civil monetary remedy against a negligent party that caused or played a role in an individual’s death. Therefore, seek an attorney to help you make a viable claim.