You have probably heard the term ‘wrongful death’ before, even if you weren’t exactly sure what it meant. Basically, a wrongful death is ruled when an individual becomes deceased due to the reckless or negligent actions of another. While the victim of a wrongful death will obviously not be able to file a claim, such a claim is often filed by their surviving family members.
In order for a case to rise to the level of wrongful death, four specific elements must be present. We have briefly highlighted each of these elements below.
One of the key points of wrongful death cases is proving that the death was caused by the negligence of another person, or a group of people. Obviously, this can be difficult to prove in some cases, depending on the availability of witnesses, physical evidence, etc. It should be noted that the death doesn’t need to be entirely caused by negligence, as long as it is proven that it was in part caused by a negligent act.
Breach of Duty
Wrongful death also needs to include a breach of duty, meaning the defendant had some form of duty to the victim which was not upheld. A common example of this concept is when a death occurs on the roads. All drivers have a duty to drive in a safe manner, consistent with the laws of the road. If a driver is not obeying the traffic laws, and causes a death in the process, that individual may well be found guilty of causing a wrongful death. Of course, breach of duty can exist in many instances outside of driving, as long as the existence of duty can be proven.
Along with duty and negligence, the plaintiff in this kind of case is going to have to prove that the actions of the defendant did in fact cause the death of the victim. In some cases, this is obvious – as would probably be the case in a traffic accident. On the other hand, this point can be a major stumbling block in other cases where the eventual death was not quite as directly related to the negligent action.
There need to be damages associated with the wrongful death in order for the lawsuit or claim to be successful. It is common for damages to be awarded for pain and suffering, so that is usually a starting point for damage claims. Also, things like medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and more can also be included in the calculation of damages.
As is true with all types of legal cases, there are infinite variables involved in a wrongful death case. Some wrongful death cases are easy to prove and never contain much doubt, while other cases require a skilled lawyer to present in a compelling manner. If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit or claim, it would be a smart decision to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in this area of law.