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How Does a Wrongful Death Suit Work?

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | Jan 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

When someone causes death of a person due to negligence or intentional harm, a wrongful death claim may be brought up against them. The person against whom the wrongful death claim is filed is called the defendant. The wrongful death claim allows the estate of the deceased person to file a lawsuit against the defendant, or the party which is at fault. The party at fault is held legally liable for the death of the deceased. The wrongful death suit is usually filed by a representative of the estate of the deceased, or by the affected parties. The suit is filed on behalf of the family members of the deceased.

When is a wrongful death claim applicable?

When someone with a personal injury dies as a result of intentional harm or negligence, a wrongful death claim becomes applicable. The act of negligence or intentional harm is caused by the defendant. Had no act of negligence taken place, the victim would have been alive and had a valid personal injury claim. A number of different scenarios can lead to a valid wrongful death claim as given below:

  • When a person is intentionally killed by the actions of someone else, a wrongful death claim becomes applicable.
  • When a person dies as a result of medical malpractice, a wrongful death claim becomes applicable. Cases of medical malpractice are when a doctor fails to properly diagnose a condition or illness, when an improper treatment plan is prescribed, or when the level of care provided to the patient is below the expected standard. These acts of carelessness can result in the death of the patient, and a wrongful death action can be brought against the negligent party.
  • When someone dies in a car accident due to the negligence of another driver, it can give rise to a valid wrongful death claim.

The above mentioned scenarios are common examples of personal injury cases that can lead to wrongful death claims. Another kind of personal injury case which can result in the death of the victim is injury at the workplace. Workplace injuries usually give rise to workers' compensation claims.

Who can file a wrongful death claim?

Usually, a direct representative of the estate of the deceased or the direct family members of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. In case the direct family members are minors, then any other survivors with a direct relationship with the victim can file a wrongful death claim. Direct relatives who can file a wrongful death claim include the spouse of the deceased, their parents or children. However, this varies from state to state.

What needs to be proven in wrongful death cases?

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet had they lived in order to hold the defendant liable. For example, if the case involved medical negligence, the plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care towards the defendant, and that they breached that duty of care. The plaintiff also has to prove that the breach in duty of care was directly responsible for the death of the victim. Once all this is proven, then the plaintiff will be able to recover the damages.

About the Author

Timothy J. Ryan

Personal injury attorney Timothy J. Ryan has helped California injury victims recover more than $1 Billion since 1981. Tim is on the board of governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and received the 2020 award "10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys" for client satisfaction.

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