An Overview of Wrongful Death Claims
Thousands of people are injured in accidents every year through no fault of their own.
While many of these accidents result in injuries, some of which are very serious, others have more deadly consequences.
When this occurs, the injured party’s family members could have standing to file a wrongful death claim on their loved one’s behalf.
When successful, these individuals are eligible to recover damages compensating them for their relative’s medical expenses and pain and suffering, in addition to their own emotional distress.
Unfortunately, filing wrongful death claims can be difficult, especially for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, so if one of your own relatives recently passed away in an accident caused by someone else’s negligent or reckless conduct, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can ensure that your claim is filed correctly and on time.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil claims that can be filed by the heirs of a person who was killed as a result of another person or entity’s negligent or wrongful act. Plaintiffs who are able to successfully demonstrate that their loved one lost his or her life due to someone else’s negligence could be eligible to receive an award of damages compensating them for lost financial support, the decedent’s pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and medical bills. However, before a victim’s loved ones can recover these damages, they must first prove a series of complicated wrongful death elements.
Breaching a Duty of Care
While the damages that are available in a wrongful death case are slightly different from those that can be collected in standard negligence cases, plaintiffs are still required to prove the same elements in both types of cases.
For instance, both kinds of claims require plaintiffs to demonstrate that the at-fault party owed the decedent a duty of care. Although what qualifies as a duty of care depends on the specific facts of a case, it is essentially the duty to use reasonable care and avoid doing things to harm others.
If, for instance, a plaintiff’s loved one was injured in a car crash because the defendant was driving recklessly, then the decedent’s relatives would claim that the at-fault party violated his or her duty to operate the vehicle as a reasonably prudent person would in a similar situation.
If a duty of care is found to exist, the plaintiff must then provide evidence that that duty was breached. In the above example, this could include providing video footage of the defendant violating a traffic law, or otherwise driving without paying attention, or producing eyewitness testimony from someone who actually saw the accident occur.
Proving Causation and Damages
Once plaintiffs have demonstrated that a defendant breached the duty of care that he or she owed to the decedent, they must then prove that the breach actually caused the victim’s injury. For instance, if a person was killed in a car accident by a reckless driver, his or her heirs would need to provide evidence that it was the defendant’s vehicle that struck the victim, and not some other car.
In most personal injury cases, plaintiffs must then provide proof that the victim actually suffered damages. However, in cases where the injured party passes away, damages are presumed if the wrongful death elements of a breach of duty and causation are both satisfied.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
No amount of money can ever compensate someone for the loss of a loved one. It can, however, go a long way towards helping victims’ families pay off medical debt and other mounting expenses, so that they can focus on the healing process. For help filing your own wrongful death claim, please contact the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Peace Law Firm today.