For a defendant to be found guilty in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs will need to meet the same types of burden of proof required of the victim if the victim was still alive. There are four elements that are involved in a wrongful death case as defined by law. The surviving members who are filing a lawsuit or submitting a claim will have to prove each of these elements.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit allows surviving family members to seek justice on behalf of a loved one who passed away due to an act of carelessness or violence. Often, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate will be appointed during these claims.
Not all deaths, even accidental deaths, will qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases must meet specific criteria in order to be brought about by survivors.
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The Four Key Elements of Wrongful Death Cases
In order to bring a valid wrongful death claim, you must be able to prove these four elements:
In wrongful death cases, we must prove the death of the plaintiff’s relative was caused either by part or in whole by the carelessness, recklessness, or by the negligent actions of the defendant.
Breach of Duty
In order to be successful in the case of wrongful death, the plaintiffs will need to be able to prove that the defendant owed a duty to the victim. For example, motorists have the duty to drive safely and follow and obey traffic laws. Medical health providers and doctors have a duty to maintain a person’s health.
The plaintiff must be able to establish how the duty of the defendant existed and that this duty was breached as a result of their negligent actions.
Additionally, to prove that the duty of the defendant was breached towards the victim, the plaintiff in the lawsuit will also be required to prove how the negligence of the defendant caused the death of their loved one.
In order to prove a wrongful death case, the death of the victim will also need to generate quantifiable damages. This may include:
- Medical expenses
- Burial costs
- The cost of a funeral
- Loss of income
- Loss of potential earnings
- A loss of protection, guidance, and inheritance
- Pain and suffering of the victim before their death
Proving these points through a wrongful death lawsuit in court will require the production of strong and convincing evidence. Some of the evidence may require the testimony of expert witnesses. A wrongful death attorney will help you build your case around the facts and evidence that are provided.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
There are several common causes of wrongful death lawsuits. Each of these types of cases will require the same basic four elements in order to prove wrongful death. Some of the more common causes of a wrongful death claim include:
- Birth injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Motorcycle, commercial truck, or automobile accidents
- Occupational hazards
- Occupation exposure
- Product defects
- Premises accidents
- Supervised activities such as adult care, daycare, and field trips
- Abuse and neglect at assisted living or nursing home facilities
- Criminal actions such as stabbings, shootings, or other violence
Burden of Proof
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action and not a criminal case. For this reason, the burden of proof is lower. In order to prove a wrongful death case successfully, the lawsuit may be won based on the significance of the evidence that is presented, without the standards that are set in criminal cases that require a person to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In order to prove a wrongful death case, there are many steps that need to be taken. This includes developing a strategy for the case, investigating the claims thoroughly, talking to experts, meeting with witnesses, and researching tort law.
The legal process of a wrongful death claim will involve mediations, demands, and possibly a settlement of the claim. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, a lawsuit may be filed and the case will go to trial.
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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
Wrongful death lawyers receive a check from the at-fault party’s insurance company, and then they deduct their own fees and pay out the agreed-upon amount to the plaintiffs in the case. These funds will be paid directly to the plaintiffs and not given to the deceased’s estate.
When you get a wrongful death settlement, you will not have to pay income, estate, or inheritance taxes on the amount.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit will depend on your state’s laws. In some states, only the immediate family members of the deceased such as spouses, children, and parents can file. Other states allow any family member who was receiving direct financial support from the deceased to file. Ask your wrongful death attorneys about the laws where you live.
How Much Can You Sue for Wrongful Death?
Death compensation is calculated by first adding up the monetary damages that are associated with the death of your loved one. Once this figure has been determined, it will become the basis by which your pain and suffering damages are calculated. Your lawyer for wrongful death and the at-fault party’s insurers will use the multiplier or per diem methods to reach this figure.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC Today for Legal Representation
When it comes to a wrongful death case, the credibility and the quality of the evidence is more important than the quantity. For this reason, it is often recommended to hire legal representation for your wrongful death case.
A wrongful death lawyer will help build a case around the evidence to show that the burden of proof is met. If the burden of proof is not met, no awards are recovered. It is important to make sure that you have evidence to prove that the cause of death was indeed due to the carelessness of the defendant.
A claim of wrongful death can become quite complicated. That is why it is important to have someone on your side that understands these types of claims and how they work. Our team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC understands the complexity of these types of cases and can help you through the process of obtaining all that is necessary to help prove your wrongful death case.