·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

How a Wrongful Death Claim Works

— March 10, 2021

As a family member, you need to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party to pursue justice.

Losing a loved one is usually an overwhelming ordeal. The experience becomes more emotionally unbearable if it was as a result of intentional action or negligence. In this case, a wrongful death claim holds the responsible party liable for their actions.

Close family members of the deceased can file a civil case against the responsible individual. Valid claims can originate from personal injuries where a victim’s death resulted from murder, car accident, medical malpractice, and more.

Who Files a Wrongful Death Claim?

Mostly, if the deceased had a spouse, they will qualify to file for a lawsuit. However, states are responsible for determining who files such claims and are mostly family members or the deceased estate’s representative. In other areas, extended family members such as siblings or grandparents can file as well. Those who file are then part of the plaintiffs during the case.

What You Need to Prove

To hold the negligent party liable for a wrongful death claim, the surviving family member needs to prove the following:

  • The negligent party owed the victim a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached their duty through a willful act.
  • The defendant engaged in a breach of duty, which directly led to the death of the victim
  • They have to avail enough proof that the death caused considerable damages, which the plaintiff needs to recover.

Investigations into the Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Once a plaintiff files a wrongful death claim, they need an attorney’s help to make thorough investigations of the case. An attorney will determine the lawsuit’s basis, assess the complainant’s damages, and develop a compensation value that the litigant deserves. Usually, it’s an evaluation of human capital when they die and their work-life expectancies.

Issue of Demand

A wrongful death lawyer can decide to start the settlement process by the issuance of a demand letter. It’s a formal document sent to the defendant requesting payment meant to resolve a dispute. The recipient of the letter is an insurance firm that may disagree with the terms of the document.

It leads to the beginning of negotiations as both parties try to settle on a fair amount. If they fail to agree after various sessions, the plaintiff can take the case to trial through a lawsuit to recover their financial losses.

Type of Damages That Survivors Can Collect

Image of a funeral ceremony
Image of a funeral ceremony; image courtesy of Rhodi Alers de Lopez via Unsplash,

Complainants can seek damages in a wrongful death claim but may vary depending on the state. However, in many cases, they can seek the following:

  • Loss of inheritance due to the victim’s death
  • Medical expenses accrued by the deceased before death
  • Survivors’ pain and suffering
  • Loss of support from the decedent, such as wages
  • Burial and funeral costs incurred by survivors

Who Benefits from Wrongful Death Claims

When courts want to determine how to award damages, they look at the deceased’s relationship with various surviving family members. Spouses are among the first beneficiaries to be considered. They have a claim for lost companionship and emotional trauma stemming from the victim’s death.

Children are also considered due to loss of benefits such as support and comfort if they are not yet adults. If it was a case involving a minor, parents’ can recover the damages for the emotional trauma. Additionally, if the deceased death was due to the defendant’s recklessness, family members may receive punitive damages.

There are several death cases caused by the negligence of another party. As a family member, you need to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party to pursue justice. The lawsuit may be a lengthy procedure, which most complainants usually find challenging. Fortunately, you can always hire a wrongful death lawyer to assist you in gathering all the essential details about the case. They will also ensure that you get fair compensation for the financial damages incurred.

Join the conversation!