Wrongful death is a loss of life that occurred because of the negligence or intentional action of another person. Family members of the deceased person or a representative of that individual’s estate may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for the death and seek financial compensation.
If someone else owed an individual a duty of care and breached that duty, and the victim died, that may constitute a wrongful death.
When Survivors Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
For example, if an individual was killed by a driver who was behaving negligently by operating a vehicle while intoxicated or by texting behind the wheel, the family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Drivers owe a duty of care to other people on the road. They are expected to follow traffic laws and to operate a vehicle in a safe manner to avoid an accident.
Healthcare providers are also expected to meet a standard of care. That means they should provide a type of care that a similarly trained and competent physician in the same area would provide under the same circumstances. According to Johns Hopkins University (JHU), more than 250,000 patients die each year because of medical mistakes. Some of those patients’ families might qualify for wrongful death benefits.
A doctor who failed to meet the standard of care and whose actions caused the patient’s death may be found liable for a wrongful death. If a physician misdiagnosed a patient’s condition, made an error during surgery that led to death, or prescribed a medication that was not appropriate for the person’s illness or that caused a fatal interaction with another drug the patient was taking, the doctor may have been negligent. In those cases, family members may be able to sue the physician for wrongful death.
Relatives of a person who was killed by the actions of another individual may file a wrongful death lawsuit. For instance, if a person attacked another and caused serious injuries that led to the victim’s death, either immediately or later, survivors may sue the attacker for wrongful death.
Family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit even if the person who caused the death has already faced criminal charges. Since the burden of proof is lower in a civil lawsuit than in a criminal case, survivors may be able to obtain compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit even if the person who caused the death was not convicted in criminal court.
People Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In general, a surviving spouse and minor children may file a wrongful death lawsuit. If a minor child suffers a wrongful death, the child’s parents might be able to sue the party that was responsible.
State laws on wrongful death lawsuits vary when it comes to other people who had a relationship with the deceased. Some states allow parents to sue for the wrongful death of an adult child and let adult children sue for the wrongful death of a parent, while others do not.
Laws also differ on whether adult siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other distant relatives may sue. Some states allow a deceased person’s unmarried romantic partner and anyone else who was financially dependent on the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit, while other states have stricter laws.
In some states, family members may not file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, a representative of the victim’s estate may sue for compensation.
What Survivors Can Sue for in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Family members of a deceased individual may sue to recover compensation for bills related to medical care that the victim received prior to his or her death, the victim’s pain and suffering, and funeral and burial expenses.
Relatives may also sue for the loss of income that the victim would have provided if they had lived, the loss of an inheritance, and the loss of services the deceased relative would have otherwise provided. In addition, family members may seek compensation for the loss of love, companionship, care, guidance, and nurturing that the victim would have provided.
Some states allow survivors to seek punitive damages that are meant to punish the offender for their actions. Punitive damages are also intended to serve as a warning to others to discourage similar behavior.
Numerous factors, such as the victim’s age, health, intelligence, earnings at the time of death, and future earning potential, can influence the compensation relatives may receive. In some cases, experts give testimony to provide insights on the victim’s earning capacity and the value of services that they would have provided.
Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney
The death of a loved one is devastating, and figuring out how to navigate the legal process can be difficult and overwhelming. Ben Crump Law, PLLC, has helped families across the United States seek justice following the death of a loved one.
If your relative died because of the negligence or intentional acts of another person, we might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. Call our office at (800) 593-3443 to speak with a member of our staff.