Wrongful death claims are a special category of injury cases. As the name implies the negligence or actions of another have lead to the death of a victim. We have handled many of these cases over the years. A tractor-trailer runs a red light, a doctor misses a diagnosis, or whatever the cause, we can help.
Elements of Wrongful Death
There are three key elements involved in wrongful death as defined by law. Surviving members submitting a claim or filing a lawsuit must prove each element to win a case for financial compensation. The four key elements include:
Negligence – The surviving members or their legal representatives must prove the death of their loved one was caused (in part or in whole) by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligent actions of the defending party.
Causation – In addition to proving how the duty of the defendant was breached toward the deceased, the lawsuit plaintiff must also prove how the defendant’s negligence caused their loved one’s death.
Damages – Based upon the full value of the life of the deceased.
Examples of Wrongful Death
Occupational exposure and hazards
Criminal actions including blatant violence, shootings and stabbings
Supervised activities including day care, adult care and field trips
Nursing home and assisted living abuse and neglect
The Burden of Proof
Because a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and not a criminal case, the burden of proof is set lower. To be successful, the lawsuit must be won on the preponderance of evidence as opposed to the standard set in a criminal case of being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Pursuing civil action for a wrongful death case involves numerous steps including developing a strategy, investigating the claim, speaking with experts, meeting witnesses, and researching tort law.
Breach of Duty
To be successful in the case, it must be proved that the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit owed a duty to the deceased victim. For example, a motorist maintains a duty to drive safely, and follow and obey every traffic law. Doctors and medical health providers have the duty to maintain a patient’s health. It is up to the plaintiff to establish how the defendant’s duty existed, and that the duty was breached through their negligent actions.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
A: It depends on whether a person dies as a result of the injuries or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person's heirs may recover money through a lawsuit. Every state has a law permitting an action when someone causes the wrongful death of another. If a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person's estate.
Q: When someone dies, what is the difference between the civil and criminal cases that can be brought regarding the death?
A: A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish an individual for an act that has been classified as a crime. A civil case, on the other hand, has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties that individuals and organizations legally owe to each other. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case, and the penalty imposed is a criminal sanction such as imprisonment. In a civil case, the defendant may have a monetary judgment entered against him/her.
Q: Are all state laws the same regarding wrongful deaths?
A: No, there are many differences among different state wrongful death laws. Determining the state in which you can (and should) bring a wrongful death action is a very important decision, because some states do not allow certain types of damage awards and/or may have different statutes of limitation that establish the timeframe within which you must file suit.
Q: Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job?
A: Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, he/she may have contributed in some other way to the family. A good example of such a case is an action for the wrongful death of a stay-at-home husband or wife who contributes services, guidance and nurturing of the family.
Q: Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?
A: Yes, in addition to the wrongful death, a decedent's family may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death.
Q: Can I bring a wrongful death action based on the death of a child or an elderly person?
A: Yes, you can recover damages in a wrongful death cause of action for the death of either a child or an elderly person.
Our Attorney Can Help
If our FAQ didn’t answer your Wrongful Death lawsuit questions, please contact us today by calling 706-324-5606 or emailing us at . We have years of experience fighting for victims of Wrongful Death, and we may be able to help if you or someone you love has passed away because of an act of negligence.
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