To prove that your loved one was a victim of a wrongful death, you will have to show that the defendant owed your family member a duty of care, the defendant breached that duty, and your relative died as a result. To be eligible for compensation, you will have to show that you suffered damages because of your family member’s death.
How You May Be Able to Seek Justice
Losing a loved one is tragic, and it can be particularly traumatic if the death is sudden and unexpected. You and other relatives may be able to seek financial compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. In order to prevail and receive compensation, you will have to prove four key elements.
Duty of Care
The duty of care is the responsibility to act in a reasonable and responsible manner. For example, drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Motorists are expected to obey traffic laws and not engage in dangerous or reckless acts such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or texting while behind the wheel. If you choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you will have to show that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one.
Violation of the Duty of Care
The next thing you will have to prove is that the defendant was negligent. According to the Legal Information Institute (LII), negligence is “[a] failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
That may mean, for example, that a driver behaved in a reckless manner that endangered your family member. If the motorist violated a traffic law or drove a car that he or she knew was unsafe, you may be able to prove that the driver violated the duty of care and was negligent.
The Defendant’s Negligence Caused Your Relative’s Death
Next, you will have to show that the defendant’s violation of the duty of care was the direct cause of your loved one’s death. This is often the most difficult element to prove. In most states, a jury will be required to determine whether the defendant was negligent based on a preponderance of the evidence.
If the driver ran a red light and collided with your family member’s vehicle and your relative died as a result, the driver may be found negligent and may be held liable for your loved one’s wrongful death. If the other driver was behaving negligently but that was not the direct cause of your relative’s death, the driver may not be found liable.
You Suffered Damages as a Result of Your Family Member’s Death
You will have to demonstrate that you experienced losses because of the untimely passing of your relative to receive compensation. If you had to pay for funeral expenses, or if your family member incurred medical bills for treatment related to the accident before his or her death, you may be able to pursue compensation to cover those costs.
If your spouse or parent passed away and you relied on that person’s income to support you or to cover some of your bills, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek a financial award. You may also be eligible for compensation to cover costs related to services that your relative would have provided, as well as the loss of your family member’s pension or an inheritance that you would have been entitled to.
You may be able to recover compensation for the emotional devastation you have suffered because of your loved one’s death. You may be entitled to non-economic damages for the mental anguish you endured and the pain that you will continue to suffer because of the loss of companionship, affection, and emotional support.
Understanding Your State’s Laws
In wrongful death cases, state laws vary greatly on several key issues. One is the matter of who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In some states, a victim’s spouse and children may sue for compensation, and parents may sue for damages related to the death of a minor child.
Some states allow a non-married romantic partner and other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to sue for wrongful death. Under some state laws, other individuals may file a lawsuit if they were financially dependent on the deceased person or would have been entitled to an inheritance.
In some states, family members are not permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In those states, an executor or a personal representative may sue on behalf of the deceased person’s estate.
The statute of limitations is another key factor to consider. Each state has a statute of limitations for wrongful death cases that restricts the amount of time survivors have to file a claim. In some cases, such as those involving medical malpractice, a different statute of limitations may apply.
Contact Us Today for Your Free Case Evaluation
A wrongful death lawyer who is familiar with the laws in your state can explain how they may affect your case. Ben Crump Law, PLLC has a team of attorneys who have represented clients across the United States and helped them seek justice. Call our office today at (800) 593-3443 to speak with a member of our staff.