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What is a Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death refers to a civil claim or tort lawsuit that is filed when someone’s death is caused by the negligent, reckless or intentional acts of another individual or entity. In some cases, wrongful death actions may be brought against someone who is also facing criminal charges for the same event. Even if the person is not found guilty of the criminal charge, he or she may still be found liable for the wrongful death action.

Key Takeaways

  • Wrongful death refers to a civil claim or lawsuit that is filed by family members and dependents against an individual or entity that negligently, recklessly or intentionally caused the death of another person.
  • In the United States, wrongful death cases fall under the jurisdiction of civil law and are separate to any criminal law charges filed against the individual. 
  • Surviving family members or dependents of the deceased may be awarded compensation if the elements of wrongful death are proved.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

When a person or entity fails to fulfill a legal duty and causes a death to occur, the dependents or family of the victim may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In certain aspects, wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits, except of course for the fact that they occur when an accident results in death instead of injury. 

The family or representative of the deceased may file a lawsuit or negotiate a settlement to recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death, funeral bills and burial costs as well as loss of the deceased person’s future income. 

Although the exact elements required to fulfill a wrongful death claim may vary from state to state, is generally must be proved that:

  • An individual or entity behaved negligently or intentionally committed a wrongful act
  • The individual or entity’s actions directly resulted in the death of another person
  • There are specific damages associated with the death of that person

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The individuals who are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit typically vary depending on the jurisdiction’s applicable laws. Nonetheless, the following parties generally have the right to bring forward a wrongful death claim: 

  • Immediate Family Members: In all 50 states, immediate family members such as spouses or children (including adopted children) and parents of unmarried children may be able to claim damages in wrongful death cases. 
  • Domestic or Life Partners: Domestic or life partners who were financially dependent on the deceased can often recover damages in a wrongful death suit.
  • Distant Family Members: In certain states, distant family members such as siblings or grandparents of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.
  • Personal Representative or Executor: If the deceased person had a will or estate, the designated personal representative or executor may initiate a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate and beneficiaries.
  • Legal Guardians: Legal guardians of the deceased person may be authorized to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the dependent.

Bottom Line

It is essential to speak with a lawyer who specializes in this field of law if you think you have a case for a wrongful death lawsuit. They can advise you on the particular laws that apply in your area, evaluate the merits of your case, and assist you in navigating the legal system. Find a skilled tort lawyer in your area today with Attorney At Law.

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