To win a wrongful death lawsuit, you will have to show that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one, breached that duty of care, caused the death of your family member because of that breach, and you suffered damages as a result of your relative’s death. A wrongful death lawyer can help you establish these four elements.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
To obtain compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit, an attorney can help you prove four essential items. If you cannot prove even one of these elements, you might not be entitled to compensation.
Duty of Care
You must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one. In other words, a reasonable person would expect the defendant to exercise a certain level of care. That may mean that a driver should have followed traffic laws, or a doctor should have ordered appropriate tests, made an accurate diagnosis, and administered appropriate treatment.
Breach of the Duty of Care
You must demonstrate that the defendant failed to meet their duty of care. For instance, a driver may have run a red light or driven while drunk. A doctor may not have ordered a test that would have led to an accurate diagnosis. They might have misinterpreted test results or prescribed a medication not intended to treat your relative’s condition or caused a dangerous interaction with a drug they already took.
A wrongful death lawyer could next help you show that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care led to your family member’s death—for example, they could demonstrate that a driver’s unsafe actions caused your relative’s death. In a case involving medical malpractice, an attorney could show that the failure to diagnose your relative’s condition led to a delay in care or caused your family member to receive inappropriate care. This failure to receive timely and appropriate care led to their death.
Finally, a wrongful death attorney can help you demonstrate that you suffered damages because of your loved one’s death. If you relied on your relative’s income to cover bills, you could receive compensation. You might also recover for your family member’s medical bills and funeral expenses.
In addition, you and other relatives could also recover awards to compensate you for the intangible losses related to the death of your loved one. You may receive a financial award for the loss of love, affection, support, and companionship you used to enjoy with your spouse, parent, or child.
How an Attorney Can Build a Case
A wrongful death lawyer can start by interviewing you and other family members to gather information about the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. If your relative died because of a car accident, the lawyer would review the police report, statements from witnesses, any video of the collision that may exist, and the police department’s investigation results. If the facts of the case remain unclear, an attorney may enlist an accident reconstruction expert to sort things out.
In a case involving medical malpractice, a lawyer will review your loved one’s treatment records and could seek assistance from independent medical experts. Those experts could provide insight regarding the standard of care and whether the physician who treated your family member acted with the level of skill and care that another doctor with similar training would have provided under the same circumstances.
What an Attorney Can Do to Seek Justice
Once the legal team has gathered evidence, a lawyer might determine that your case meets all the criteria (duty of care, breach of the duty of care, causation, and damages), and you have enough evidence to win a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has laws regarding who may sue for wrongful death. A wrongful death attorney could file a lawsuit on your behalf, one or more other family members, or a representative of your loved one’s estate.
Many wrongful death lawsuits end with a settlement agreement and go to trial, but sometimes the two sides cannot reach an agreement. If negotiations do not lead to a settlement that you and your attorney consider fair, your lawyer could take the case to trial and let a jury decide.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer
At Ben Crump Law, PLLC, we understand the pain that a loved one’s sudden and untimely death can cause. You might struggle to make sense of your loss and try to figure out how to move forward. Our team may be able to help.
Due to statutes of limitations, you have a limited amount of time to seek justice. Statutes of limitations vary by state. An attorney can discuss the laws where you live, advise you on your rights, and guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC, today at (800) 593-3443 to speak with a member of our team.