What is Considered a Wrongful Death?

By | September 16, 2013

In the eyes of the law, a wrongful death refers to a situation where an individual dies as the direct result of negligence or an unlawful behavior. After the untimely death, the surviving family members are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the guilty party. A wrongful death lawsuit is basically a civil court motion that is filed in order for the victim’s family to receive damages for the unjust death of their loved one. Keep reading to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits and the compensations that can be collected. Common Causes of Wrongful Death Wrongful death can occur in a wide variety of different situations. The most common causes of wrongful death are motor vehicle, motorcycle, boating, and even airplane accidents. Drivers of all these vehicles maintain a high responsibility to operate the machinery in a considerate manner. Whenever a fatality occurs because of reckless, careless, or illegal driving behaviors behind the wheel, it is considered a wrongful death. Another common cause for wrongful death that is unfortunately on the rise is medical malpractice. Since health care professionals have a responsibility to provide appropriate and safe treatment to patients, negligent behaviors have steep consequences and can lead to death. If a medical professional fails to deliver an appropriate medical care treatment to a patient that later dies as a result, it is deemed wrongful death. Deceased family members have grounds to bring wrongful death lawsuits against physicians, surgeons, nurses, psychologists, and even hospitals. Employers can also be held liable for wrongful death if it is proven that fatal workplace accidents resulted from faulty equipment, unsafe working conditions, improper training, or exposure to hazardous substances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have standards that dictate how employers must ensure safety for their workers; so, when death occurs as a result of violations to these standards, it is considered a wrongful death. Construction workers, fishermen, metalworkers, loggers, truck drivers, miners, and electricians have been shown to be at higher risk for wrongful death. If a consumer dies from using a product that has defects, faulty designs, or errors in the manufacturing process, their wrongful death can hold the manufacturers and retailers responsible for their loss of life. Since the law requires adequate warning of possible harmful side effects of a product, failure to properly label the item is considered negligence. As a result, there is yet another common cause of wrongful death that entitles a lawsuit. Although murder and manslaughter are charges in criminal cases, the deceased’s family members can also file civil actions against perpetrators of violent attacks as wrongful death lawsuits. In fact, the assailant does not have to be convicted in criminal court before a civil wrongful death suit can be filed. When a person dies from a violent criminal behavior, the guilty party is subject to facing proceedings in both criminal and civil law. Principles for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, there needs to be significant evidence that the deceased individual lost their life as the result of negligence or unlawful behavior by another person or group. It must be proven that the other party was responsible for the death, instead of the individual’s own action or inaction. Furthermore, it is required that the victim’s family members be able to confirm the direct emotional and/or financial impact that has caused strife following the death. Surviving family members should be prepared to establish that they have suffered significant distress because of the loved one’s wrongful death. While state laws often vary on who is entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit, every state in the United States gives surviving spouses and children the right to file a wrongful death case. In some select states around the country, extended family members can also file, including parents, siblings, and even grandparents. Family members that file for wrongful death lawsuits are required to open a probate estate to sue on the behalf of the deceased. If children under the age of 18 are involved, the court will often require a guardian be appointed to supervise the child through the lawsuit process. It is important to note that all states also have limitations on how long family members can wait to file a lawsuit, so contact a wrongful death lawyer immediately if you believe you have grounds for a case. Types of Compensation from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Once family members establish that their loved one died as a result of a wrongful behavior, they are entitled to receiving various types of damages to compensate for their loss. For instance, family members can sue for compensation to cover medical expenses, as well as the cost for the deceased’s funeral and burial. In addition, compensatory damages can be received for any lost wages that the individual would have earned in their lifetime, if they had not met an untimely death. Family members can also receive compensation for emotional pain, suffering, or depression that results from the tragic loss of a dear member of the family. In certain states, punitive damages are also allowed, which are intended to punish the guilty party for their causing the wrongful death. Since it is often difficult to prove that the death of a loved one is the result of natural causes, an act of God, or negligence by a third party, family members should never take it upon themselves to file wrongful death litigation alone. Consult with a wrongful death lawyer right away if you suspect that one of your loved ones has been the victim of wrongful death. Attorneys that specialize in wrongful death cases have a deep understanding of your family’s rights, and all of the necessary legal procedures to help achieve you achieve the compensation that you deserve for your loss.

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