The Basics of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

By Mark T. Flickinger, JD on April 24, 2019

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action case brought up against a defendant whose actions have caused the death of another. Most wrongful death suits are filed by loved ones of the deceased—it may be the victim’s parents, spouse, or children. There are certain things that will need to be proven to achieve compensation in a wrongful death suit.

Negligence

In most personal injury cases, including wrongful death, negligence must be proved to receive compensation. Essentially, you need to be able to prove that another party’s negligent or careless actions were responsible for someone’s death. You must be able to prove that the defendant did not act in a way that any other reasonable person would have in the same situation.

Even if the actions in question did not intend to cause harm, if they were the causation that led to the death of another, the defendant could be guilty of wrongful death.
Wrongful death can be filed against an individual, group, or company. If a negligent party causes an incident that leads to death, that party may be guilty of wrongful death and help liable for damages. It could also be that the employer of a guilty party may be held liable for the incident was on company property.

An example of negligence would be if a person threw an object out of anger, not intending harm, but nevertheless causing it when the object hits another person. In this instance, the thrower would be guilty of being negligent and could be held reliable for any damages or injuries they caused.

Causation

Once you have proven that the actions of the defendant were negligent, you must also be able to prove that those actions were the cause of death. Even if the actions were harmful, if they were not the direct cause of death, it may not be a wrongful death suit. However, if the neglectful actions were a direct cause of death, then the defendant will be required to compensate for their actions.

Breach of Duty

In wrongful death cases, you must be able to prove that the defendant owed some duty to the victim and that they were in a breach of that duty. An example of this would be a doctor having a certain amount of duty to maintain the health of their patients. If a doctor failed to fulfill that duty, they could be guilty of a breach of duty. And if that situation led to the death of a patient, they may be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Damages and Personal Injury

If the defendant is found guilty in the case of wrongful death, they can be held liable for all damages causes. This may include medical bills, funeral and burial costs, loss of income, hospital bills, and other damages. They may even be held liable for other emotional and financial hardships that impact the loved ones left behind.

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