If you have lost a loved one due to negligence and are hoping to successfully bring and win a wrongful death claim, it is crucial that you understand the necessary elements of this type of claim. There are four primary elements that are required in order to prove a wrongful death lawsuit (also considered a personal injury lawsuit).
This article will review those four elements along with the common causes of wrongful death, as well as the damages typically awarded in this type of case for which the surviving family can receive compensation.
Understanding the 4 Primary Elements of Wrongful Death Claims
As mentioned above, it is crucial to understand the necessary elements of a wrongful death claim in order to ensure that you do have a case. The strength of these elements will also impact the chances of winning the claim and receiving compensation.
1) Negligence: The Death of a Person Resulting from the Actions of Another
Negligence takes place when an individual acts carelessly and recklessly, resulting in the personal injury or death of another. This may be due to intentional motivation, or it may be done unintentionally. Either way, the defendant should be held liable.
An example of a negligent act is a nurse who may have administered the wrong medication to a patient, or who failed to give them needed medication at all.
2) Breach of Duty: The Defendant Did Not Meet Their Duty of Care
Proving that the defendant did not meet the duty of care that they owed to the victim is a critical piece of proving negligence in a wrongful death claim. This is the element that sets the foundation for the expectation that the defendant should have acted in the best interests of the victim.
To continue with our example of the nurse and the patient, the nurse’s actions (or lack thereof) may have been unintentional. However, this is a breach of duty because the nurse failed to provide the care the patient needed.
3) Causation: How the Defendant’s Negligence Caused the Death of the Victim
Causation is proving how an individual’s negligence resulted in the wrongful death of the victim.
Again, continuing with our example of the nurse giving medication to their patient, it would be necessary to prove that the victim’s death was related to the wrong medication or lack of medication being administered. This can either be a direct result, or it can take into account that this error was a contributing factor of their death.
4) Damages: Measurable Damages that Result in the Necessity of Compensation
The final of the four critical elements required for a wrongful death suit is proving that the victim left surviving family members who have experienced monetary injury and that reasonable compensation is owed.
The typical damages that the surviving family members can be awarded are considered financial injuries resulting from the death of the victim. Among these are compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of relational support
- Loss of services provided
- Loss of income (current and future income)
It is helpful to have an economic expert assist with quantifying the damages in order to help the jury understand how they are calculated and the reasoning behind the compensation you are seeking.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Either the personal representative for the estate or surviving family member can bring a wrongful death suit. In some states, any surviving family member that was a dependent of the victim can file the claim. However, in other states, this is limited to spouses, children, and parents. It is best to consult an attorney since the laws can vary depending on your location.
What are Some of the Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death cases are usually a result of one of the following:
- Vehicle accidents, such as those including motorcycles, cars, and 18-wheelers.
- Medical negligence, such as the example given above of the nurse who administered the wrong medication or failed to administer medication at all.
- Defectively manufactured products which resulted in death upon use.
- Injuries and death that result under another’s care, such as during an adult supervised activity.
- Criminal acts that result in death.
There are many other possible causes for wrongful death. A personal injury attorney can help you determine if your loved one’s death was due to negligence.
How Can You Bring a Successful Wrongful Death Claim? Work with Expert Wrongful Death Lawyers
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim can vary from state to state. It is crucial to speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you would like to pursue compensation and hold the defendant liable for the loss of your loved one.
The ability to provide a solid burden of proof that negligence was indeed the cause of your loved ones death is essential for winning your case. If there is a criminal case combined as well as a wrongful death suit, this burden of proof can be even more difficult.
At Strickland and Kendall, LLC, we have experienced wrongful death attorneys on our team who can help you with every step of filing your personal injury claim and pursuing the compensation you deserve. Call us at (800) 874-3528 any time of day, seven days a week to schedule your free consultation.