A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that can be filed against a person or entity who wrongfully caused someone’s death. “Wrongfully” in this context usually means recklessly, or negligently, but it can also include intentional criminal acts such as murder.
Common Wrongful Death Causes
- Automobile and Motorcycle Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Faulty Manufacturing
- Criminal Acts
- Elder Abuse
The deceased cannot bring forth the lawsuit themselves, so it is often filed on their behalf by their estate, or by immediate family members who have been directly impacted by the wrongful death. Who can and can’t bring forth a wrongful death claim differs from state to state, but the burden of proof is usually similar.
What Must Be Proven
Typically, in a wrongful death case, the Plaintiff, the party who files the claim, must prove the 4 main elements of negligence.
1. Duty of Care. The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant had a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, every driver on the road as a duty to all the other drivers to follow the rules of the road and drive responsibly.
2. Breach of Duty of Care. The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant breached that duty of care as evidenced by their actions, or lack of actions.
3. Causation. The Plaintiff must prove the Defendant’s breach of duty directly or proportionately caused the wrongful death.
4. Damages. The Plaintiff must prove the wrongful death caused the damages that the estate or family members are now seeking to be compensated for.
Common Types of Damages
There are several types of damages a Plaintiff may be awarded in a wrongful death claim.
- Medical Bills
- Funeral Expenses
- Property Damage
- Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Income
- Loss of Love and Companionship
- Punitive Damages
Filing a wrongful death claim can be difficult on those who just lost a loved one. It can also be extremely complicated and confusing. Sometimes it may even necessitate opening a probate case, which is a whole other area of law. Keep in mind that many states place statutes of limitation on wrongful death lawsuits, which means you may only have a certain window of time to file. When looking for an attorney to represent you in a wrongful death claim, look for an experienced attorney who has your rights and well-being in mind.
If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligent or intentional acts, consider speaking with an experienced wrongful death or car accident attorney Phoenix AZ trusts.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Kamper Estrada LLP for their insight into wrongful death cases.