What Constitutes Wrongful Death?

Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Carson R. Runge with Sloan Firm.

What Constitutes Wrongful Death?
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A wrongful death is any death that occurs due to the negligent or intentional acts of another party; in other words, if a death could have been prevented by reasonable attention to safety, it is quite possible that the surviving family is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If your family has suffered the wrongful death of a loved one, reach out to a wrongful death attorney to discuss your options for support and recovery.

If the deceased would have been eligible to file a personal injury claim had they survived, the family is eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

If you are unsure whether or not your family is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, as a general rule of thumb the family may be able to seek compensation for the same damages the deceased could have if they survived their injuries. In fact, proving a wrongful death claim is much the same as proving a personal injury claim. To prove a wrongful death claim, it will first be necessary to prove that the at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care, and that their breach of that duty of care resulted in the fatal injuries of the victim. A duty of care is simply a legal phrase used to describe the legal obligation of one party to behave with reasonable care toward another party.

Damages which may be compensated in a wrongful death lawsuit may include the following:

  • Medical expenses related to the death
  • Past and future lost wages and benefits, especially if the deceased was a primary source of income for the family
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering before death
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of care and companionship, protection, training, and nurturing
  • Funeral costs
  • Burial costs

Common causes of wrongful death include but are not necessarily limited to the following:

  • Car accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Dangerous premises
  • Defective products
  • Work accidents
  • Intentional conduct

Parties eligible to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased loved one vary from state to state.

It is important to note that laws regarding wrongful death can vary from state to state, so it’s important to reach out to an experienced attorney in your area. One of the most significant ways that wrongful death law can vary is who is considered eligible to file. Depending on your state, the following parties may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim:

  • Immediate family members: Immediate family members are generally considered a spouse and/or minor children. In most states, immediate family members are eligible to file.
  • Parent: If the deceased is a minor, the child’s parent(s) may file a wrongful death claim.
  • Domestic partner: In some states, the domestic partner of the deceased may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim in the same way that a surviving spouse would be allowed.
  • Adult child: If the deceased was an adult with adult children, an adult child may be eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit forward depending on the state.
  • Distant family member: While this is not particularly common, if the deceased was a single adult with no immediate family, “distant” family members such as siblings, grandparents, aunts, or uncles may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
  • Executor of the deceased’s estate: This is also relatively uncommon, but if the deceased had a will drawn up prior to their death, the executor or personal administrator assigned to their estate may be the only party eligible to file a wrongful death claim.

It is also important to note that every state has their own window of time or “statute of limitations” after which a family can no longer seek legal recourse for the death of their loved one. For example, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Texas is two years from the time of death, with the exception of the death of a minor.

To find out if your loved one’s passing qualifies for a wrongful death case, talk to a wrongful death attorney. These lawyers know how to recognize wrongful death cases, and understand the emotional and financial challenges that families go through after losing a loved one. Most wrongful death attorneys offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, allowing families to focus on healing and recovery rather than worrying about how to pay for a lawyer. To learn more about your options for recovery after the wrongful death of a loved one, reach out to a wrongful attorney.

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