Wrongful death is a legal term used to define the taking of a person’s life through another’s negligent, willful or deliberate action. When an individual dies through the wrongful conduct of others, the decedent’s heirs and lawful beneficiaries can take legal action through a wrongful death lawsuit. Filing a suit against all responsible parties is a civil court action used as a way to obtain financial compensation based on the total losses of survivors.
Wrongful death claims are filed on behalf of survivors for all types of accidents, incidences and occurrences, where an individual has been killed through negligence or wrongful behavior. Many claims involve fatal incidences from a variety of sources including:
- Medical errors
- Product liability
- Dangerous prescription drugs
- Fatal car accidents
- Nursing home neglect
- Commercial truck accidents
- Faulty roadways
- Defective tires or malfunctioning brakes systems
- Drunk driving
- and many more
Who Can Sue?
The decedent’s survivors suffering damages, or their legal representative, can file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Any “real party of interest,” as defined by law, can sue for recompense. Most survivors in a wrongful death civil action often include:
- Immediate Family Members – The spouse and children along with the parents of any unmarried child have the legal right to obtain financial compensation from responsible parties through a wrongful death action.
- Financial Dependents, Life Partners and/or Recognized Spouses – Life partners and domestic partners, along with individuals recognized as the decedent’s financial dependent have the legal right for recovery. So too does a putative spouse (individuals believing they were legally married to the deceased victim at the time of their death).
- Distant Family Member – In some incidences, distant family members including grandparents, brothers and sisters have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit or claim. As an example, grandparents raising children might have the opportunity to bring legal action against all negligent parties.
- Parents – In some incidences, both or either parent of a deceased newborn can file a wrongful death suit to recover emotional and financial losses, if the child died after being born alive.
To sue or file a claim for wrongful death, survivors or their legal representatives must prove that specific actions or omission of actions of the defendant likely caused fatal injuries or death of the decedent. Complainants must show how the careless or willful conduct of the defendant created a specific series of events that led directly to the wrongful death.
Who Can Be Sued?
A wrongful death civil action can be filed against a huge array of individuals, doctors, medical staff, hospitals, government agencies, companies and company employees. Defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit or claim could include:
- Drivers found negligent of an automobile accident
- Commercial trucker at fault for a fatal crash
- Attending physicians in a medical malpractice case
- Restaurants, liquor stores, bars and individuals serving, giving or selling alcohol to an already impaired driver
- Government agencies failing to properly maintain roadways or warn against road hazards
- Automobile manufacturers, distributors and installers concerning dangerous vehicle parts, tires and brakes
Survivors of the decedent often suffer significant loss and seek compensation. Some of the compensation can include:
- Current and future lost earnings from the decedent
- Compensatory damages for lost companionship and consortium
- Lost potential of inheritance
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Property damage
- Outstanding medical bills associated with the incident
- Grief, anxiety, pain and suffering
The state’s statutes of limitation will dictate the length of time survivors can file a wrongful death lawsuit before being barred forever from doing so. Any survivors believing their loved one’s death was directly caused by the reckless, careless, negligent or deliberate actions of others should seek out legal counsel. This is because it is crucial to find out how and what steps to take to hold those responsible legally accountable for their wrongful action.
Experienced attorneys specializing in wrongful death cases can help survivors understand their legal rights. A reputable lawyer can provide a variety of avenues for pursuing a wrongful death claim to receive the financial recompense the survivors deserve.