What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?


If a person is killed or dies because of the actions or negligence of someone else, the victim’s surviving relatives can sue for wrongful death. Many wrongful death lawsuits occur during or after a criminal trial. Most of the evidence in the trial is used for the lawsuit, but the person responsible for the death may not be convicted for the victim’s death.

One prime example of this is the O.J. Simpson case. Simpson was found not guilty during the murder case of 1994 because the prosecution couldn’t determine his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, O.J. Simpson’s civil trial had a different outcome. Simpson was liable for the wrongful death of the two victims, because it was proven that he was responsible by a “preponderance of evidence.”

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death suit can only be brought to court by the personal representative of the victim’s estate. Each state has a set of statutes for wrongful death that establish the allowed procedures for bringing wrongful death actions to court. The representative can also bring actions of conscious pain and suffering, personal injury, and expenses that incurred prior to the victim’s death to the judge.

The financial awards from these wrongful death actions become the property of the estate. It may be transferred to various parties as indicated in the will of the deceased.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit to Court

To bring a wrongful death cause of action to court, several elements must be in place, including:

  • The death of the victim caused by someone else’s negligence or with intent to harm
  • The survival of relatives who are experience financial hardship as a result of the victim’s death
  • The assignment of a personal representative for the victim’s estate

A wrongful death claim can come from several circumstances, such as:

  • Medical malpractice or neglect that resulted in the victim’s death
  • A car or plane accident
  • Exposure to dangerous conditions or materials on the job
  • Criminal activity
  • Death that occurred during a supervised activity

It’s important to note that wrongful death claims have to be filed with the statute of limitations for your state. However, claims can be filed at a later date due to the “discovery rule” if the reason for the death isn’t determined until after the statute of limitations has ended.

Damages for a Wrongful Death Claim

Pecuniary or financial loss, as well as injury, is the main way to determine damages in a wrongful death case. According to the courts, “pecuniary injuries” include loss of services or support, loss of prospective inheritance, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. Most state laws maintain that all financial awards for a wrongful death suit should be fair and in keeping with the monetary hardship that affected the surviving family when the victim passes away.

More About Pecuniary Loss

When the courts are determining pecuniary loss, it’s important to consider the condition, character, and age of the deceased. The earning capacity of the victim, their life expectancy, overall health and intelligence, and the life circumstances of the relatives who will receive the financial award are also considered.

Often, the main consideration in awarding compensation is the deceased’s circumstances when the death occurred. For instance, if an employed parent passes away, the main parts of recovery are loss of parental guidance and loss of income. The jury will consider the victim’s earnings at death, the deceased’s last recorded earnings, and what would have been their future earnings.

If a case results in death it qualifies for wrongful death and you may be entitled to compensation. It’s important to get in touch with an attorney right away to go over the details of your case. The lawyer will let you know how much you can expect in a settlement and how long you may have to wait for the case to be resolved.

After you’ve lost a loved one, the last thing you need to do is worry about a lawsuit. During this time, your main focus should be on your physical health, your mental health, and the welfare of your family (Source: https://www.anidjarlevine.com/areas-we-serve/orlando-fl/car-accident-lawyer/). Although a lawyer will keep you up to date on the facts of your case, there are many elements of a lawsuit they can and will handle without you. Let the attorneys work on your behalf so you can make your loved ones your first priority.

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