Wrongful death claims occur when a person passes away due to the negligence or willful harm of another person or entity. Family members of the deceased in these cases may be able to file suit against the offender and claim compensation for the wrongful death.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
Some of the claims the survivors of the deceased may make for compensation are:
• The family members’ loss
• Lost wages, especially if the deceased was the family breadwinner
• Loss of companionship
• Burial and funeral costs
• Other intangibles, such as depression, pain, and grief
In the United States, wrongful death claims are quite new. Under the common law, which was brought to the U.S. from Great Britain, wrongful death lawsuits were not allowed and family members could not file these lawsuits. However, in the past hundred years, the federal and state courts determined that a wrongful death was a reasonable cause for a lawsuit, and that the survivors of the deceased had the right to pursue a lawsuit.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death can involve a wide array of cases, for example:
• Fatal car crashes due to vehicle malfunctions or the negligence of another driver
• Medical malpractice or the willful negligence of a medical professional
• Fatalities due to poorly manufactured products or lack of proper warning signs on the product, etc.
Both individuals and companies can be liable for wrongful death. Government agencies can also be found legally at fault in some cases. A legal attorney representing the family of the deceased can file a claim with the court system. These are the individuals that can file a lawsuit for wrongful death:
• Immediate family members (spouse, children, parents of unmarried children)
• Financial dependents
• Life partners
• Putative spouses
• Domestic partners (in some states)
• Distant family members
• Anyone who suffered financially due to the death (in some states)
• Parents of a deceased unborn baby
There is immunity for employees of government agencies and the government agencies themselves. This means that some wrongful death cases may not qualify for a lawsuit against a government agency or an employee of such an agency. For example, there is immunity for cases of wrongful death claims due to railroad collision. This immunity varies from state to state, so it’s important to get in touch with a qualified legal aid to learn about each state’s law in this regard.
In order for a defendant to be held accountable in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff is required to meet the same burden of proof the victim would have had, if he or she had been alive. For example, in the case of medical malpractice negligence, the plaintiff would have to prove that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care, that this duty of care was violated, and that the death of the victim resulted in damages from which the plaintiff is trying to recover.
The first step to filing a wrongful death claim is to contact a qualified attorney. Wrongful death lawsuits are very complex. An experienced lawyer in this area will be able to determine if the lawsuit is worth pursuing and can help gather the evidence to organize the case.