A wrongful death claim is one that occurs when a defendant has caused the death of another person either on purpose or through their own negligence. It is a type of personal injury lawsuit, but since the injured party is deceased, the estate of the victim is allowed to file the claim instead. A wrongful death claim becomes part of the estate of the deceased and is filed as a way to provide compensation to survivors of the victim.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
There are a number of ways a wrongful death claim is considered a viable option. If the victim is killed in a car accident caused by the defendant, or if the victim is killed on purpose by the defendant, a wrongful death claim can be filed. If a doctor did not provide adequate care that resulted in the death of the victim, this is a wrongful death due to medical malpractice.
Survivors in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
While a wrongful death suit can be filed by a person representing the estate of the deceased, who actually inherits money that is won will depend on the state in which the parties live. If the person is married, the spouse is able to bring a wrongful death claim in all 50 states. Parents are allowed to file on behalf of deceased children, and minor children are able to collect after the death of a parent. In general, more distant relatives like siblings or cousins might have a case, but this is much harder to prove.
How Damages Are Assessed
Much like a personal injury lawsuit where the injured party receives compensation for pain and suffering, a surviving heir can receive compensation for the deceased's pain and suffering. Any medical costs associated with the death, funeral or burials costs, and the loss of future income can all be calculated into the damages. The claim might also include loss of love, companionship, care, guidance, or nurturing, depending on the relationship between the deceased and the one seeking damages. Like with any personal injury case, future lost wages and actual lost wages are taken into consideration.
If you are a surviving spouse and you believe that your loved one died because of the negligence or willful actions of another person, it's time to talk to a wrongful death attorney. You will be able to talk through your case in order to determine whether it makes sense to file a claim or not.