June 5, 2021
If someone in your life has unfortunately died through the negligence or wrongful actions of others, you might be considering a wrongful death lawsuit. When you opt to file a wrongful death claim, you will need the help of an experienced attorney to guide you through the steps of this complex process. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action that will involve investigation, research, legal proceedings in court, and possible financial settlement of the claim. Here are some initial considerations as you weigh your options.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Four key elements constitute the legal definition of wrongful death. Each of these elements must be successfully proven in order to win a case for financial settlement.
- Negligence: Claimants must prove the death was caused entirely or in part by negligent actions of the defendant, including recklessness or carelessness.
- Breach of Duty: Claimants must prove that the defendant owed a duty to the victim. For instance, medical providers have a duty to support patient health, and motor vehicle operators have a duty to follow traffic laws.
- Causation: The lawsuit must prove that the defendant’s negligent behavior caused the victim’s death.
- Damages: The victim’s death must have resulted in quantifiable damages such as medical expenses, burial and funeral costs, loss of income or potential earnings, loss of inheritance, or other expenses.
The claimant will need to be able to produce convincing evidence for each of these points. Wrongful death cases may involve extensive research on the facts of the case and the testimony of expert witnesses.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The answer to this question depends on state law. In some states, only immediate family members of the victim are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes spouses, children, and parents. In other states, any family member or financial dependent who suffered damages through the victim’s death is able to sue. This more extended list may include life partners and distant family members. Your wrongful death lawyer will be able to provide guidance on the laws in your state.
What Steps Should You Take?
Your state’s statute of limitations determines how long you can take before filing a wrongful death lawsuit. After the statute of limitations has expired, you will no longer be able to file suit. If you believe that your family member’s death was caused by the negligent or deliberate actions of others, do not delay your initial contact with an experienced wrongful death attorney, like David & Philpot. The lawyer will help determine the next steps in building a strong wrongful death case.