When a person dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, including murder, the surviving members of the victim’s family may sue for “wrongful death.” Most wrongful death lawsuits follow in the wake of criminal trials, using similar evidence but with a lower standard of proof. Regardless, someone found liable for wrongful death may or may not be convicted of a crime associated with that death.
A suit for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or set of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent’s death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awards from these actions belong to the estate and may pass to different parties as directed by the decedent’s will.
In order to bring a successful wrongful death cause of action, the following elements must be present:
A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances, such as in the following situations:
Pecuniary, or financial, injury is the main measure of damages in a wrongful death action. Courts have interpreted “pecuniary injuries” as including the loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Most laws provide that the damages awarded for a wrongful death shall be fair and just compensation for the pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent’s death. If the distributees paid or are responsible for the decedent’s funeral or medical care, they may also recover those expenses. Finally, a damage award will include interest from the date of the decedent’s death.
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Wrongful death can sometimes be obvious or not so clear. It can be difficult to determine if someone else is as a fault and whe A personal injury firm such as ours can help you determine the answer. We understand when an unexpected death happens, it can be traumatic and emotionally-crippling. The last thing you might want to do is talk to an attorney. We get that. But our goal is not just to help you get financial reparation. It’s also to help you get peace of mind and in many cases, the healing that comes from seeing “justice” done. We will also help guide you through all the logistical steps you need to take that you might just not want to handle in this time.