Losing a loved one is painful. The death of someone you care about always feels wrong, but in the eyes of the law, only certain deaths are considered “wrongful” and can lead to a lawsuit and possible compensation for the surviving family. Learn more about when it may be appropriate to take action after a loved one has died.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death?
When someone’s death is caused by the negligent or intentional actions of another, surviving family members may file a wrongful death suit in order to recover for the financial and emotional support the victim had been contributing to the household. Causes of death that could lead to a suit include the following:
- Automobile accidents. When a driver who is drunk, distracted, sleepy, careless, or reckless causes an accident that kills another driver or passenger, he or she may be sued for wrongful death. The plaintiffs will have to prove in court that the driver’s actions were negligent or intentionally harmful and that they led directly to the death of the victim.
- Medical malpractice. A death due to the carelessness or inaction of the medical staff can also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. When a doctor makes a mistake that leads to the death of a patient, he or she may be held accountable with a medical malpractice lawsuit as well as a wrongful death claim.
- Defective products. If someone is killed by a defective product, such as an automobile airbag or malfunctioning power tool, the maker of the product could be sued for wrongful death. It would have to be proven that the manufacturer was negligent in the design or construction of the product.
- Homicide. In some cases, when the legal system fails to convict a murderer through a technicality or failure to reach the burden of proof, the family of the victim may take action through a wrongful death suit. While a successful claim will not result in the killer being imprisoned, a significant financial award can seriously damage his ability to live his former life.
In general, any case that could have led to a personal injury claim if the victim had survived becomes a wrongful death claim upon his or her death.
It’s Complicated—Call Us for Help
If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, contact our office to see if you have a wrongful death claim on your hands. We can sort through the facts and help you make the decision that will be right for you and your family.