Wrongful Death

A wrongful death can occur any time someone is injured by another person's negligence or because of a defective product. Wrongful deaths can occur in many different situations including car accidents, medical malpractice cases, bicycle accidents, and workplace accidents. The decedent may also have been the victim of a crime.

A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by a dependent family member who has suffered some type of financial or emotional loss as a result of the death. If one of your family members has died as a result of an individual's negligent behavior or because of product liability, all states now have some type of recourse for the victim's family. Immediate family members are the most likely recipients. This can include the spouse, children, and sometimes the parent's of the victim.

If one of your loved ones has been killed in an accident, discuss your personal injury claim with a personal injury attorney who is familiar with wrongful death claims in your state.

Wrongful Death Claim

In order to have a wrongful death claim there must be a death of an individual, and that death must have been caused either by the negligent or intentional acts of an individual or a defective product. In addition, the family member must have suffered either emotional or financial loss. Proving a wrongful death claim requires a preponderance of evidence, a standard of proof similar to other personal injury claims. Product liability laws do not necessarily require negligent action be proven to recover damages.

Damages Awarded

Damages will usually be paid to compensate the victim's family for financial losses. The amount awarded will be determined by examining relevant characteristics of the victim such as earning capacity, age, life expectancy, and parental responsibilities. Plaintiffs usually seek outside expert testimony from an economist to establish the amount the wrongful death claim should pay. Common financial compensation includes payment for:

  • Loss of support
  • Medical costs
  • Funeral expenses and all other costs related to death
  • Potentially lost inheritance
  • Future pension

Frequently, in a wrongful death claim, the amount the jury awards will be adjusted by the court. If the injury was a result of malicious behavior then punitive damages may be assessed. State laws vary in whether punitive damages are allowed in wrongful death lawsuits.

Personal Injury Attorney

There are many issues to consider if a wrongful death has occurred. If a death has occurred in your family, the last thing you are probably considering is a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important, however, if the death has been caused by the negligence of someone else that you contact a personal injury attorney to review and document all of the issues of the wrongful death case.

It is important to immediately gather all evidence related to the accident and begin the proceedings as soon as possible. Negligent parties should be held accountable for their actions and laws regarding filing a wrongful death claim will vary by state.

All civil actions have a statute of limitations (or time limit) in which you must file your claim. If you fail to file your wrongful death claim within the statute of limitations you will permanently waive your right to recover damages. In most states the time is between one to three years.


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