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What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death?


If a loved one of yours died in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you might be able to sue for wrongful death. With the help of a wrongful death lawyer, you can gather evidence, file charges, negotiate, or even fight for a worthy settlement in court.

But what exactly is wrongful death and how can you prove it in a court of law?

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The court concept of a wrongful death lawsuit should be intuitive. If a person wrongfully dies, or in other words, if they die due to preventable circumstances, you can hold the parties responsible for the death accountable for their actions. 

If the death was specifically caused by the action or inaction have another party, that party may be responsible for compensating survivors for costs associated with the wrongful death.

The Elements of Proving a Wrongful Death

Proving a wrongful death in court is, in some ways, easier than proving someone’s guilt in a criminal case, as this is technically a civil case. However, you’ll still need to prove multiple different things simultaneously.

  • Negligence. First, you’ll need to prove that the death was caused by someone’s negligence. If the person died under accidental circumstances, like getting struck by lightning, nobody can be held directly responsible for that death.
  • Breach of duty to the victim. Next, you’ll need to prove that the person responsible for this debt breached some kind of duty they had to the victim. This could be a formal responsibility, outlined by a legal document, or something less formal, like an expected responsibility in ordinary social interactions. For example, motorists are expected to obey all traffic laws and store owners are expected to maintain safe environments for their customers.
  • Causation. After that, you’ll need to prove that the breach of duty to the victim was the cause of the death. In other words, it wasn’t a coincidence that the victim died while the plaintiff was separately breaching their duties.
  • Damages. Finally, you’ll need to prove the damage is associated with this death.

Examples of Wrongful Deaths

These are some of the most common types of wrongful death cases:

  •  Medical malpractice and birth injuries. Doctors, nurses, and other caretakers are responsible for treating you correctly.
  • Motor vehicle accidents. Anyone deliberately or accidentally breaking the law and putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk should be held responsible for the consequences of those actions.
  • Occupational accidents and hazards. Workplaces are responsible for keeping their employees reasonably safe. Even one small breach of duty could lead to a person’s death.  
  • Supervised activities. Nursing homes, daycares, schools, and other institutions often provide supervised activities, putting some people in charge of the safety and health of others.
  • Abuse and neglect. In some cases, the wrongful death is a direct byproduct of abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, this is increasingly common in nursing homes.
  • Violent actions. Sometimes, the wrongful death is attributable to a violent action, like an assault or a mugging.

Types of Damages You Could Receive

If you win your wrongful death case, these are the types of damages you could receive:

  • Hospitalization and medical care. Oftentimes, victims are rushed to the hospital after suffering serious injuries. If you faced significant costs from hospitalization or other types of medical care before the victim passed, you may be entitled to compensation to pay for all those costs.
  • Burial and funeral costs. Similarly, the plaintiff may be on the hook for burial and funeral costs, covering any expenses necessary to lay the victim to rest.
  • Loss of income. If you’re the partner or a close family member who was depending on income from the victim, you may be entitled to compensation equivalent to this income.
  • Loss of potential earnings. It’s also possible for you to win compensation for loss of potential earnings; in other words, how much money could this person have earned in the future if they still had many years of life ahead of them?
  • Loss of consortium. If the person who wrongfully died was a spouse or partner, you may be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium. You’ve lost a partner, friend, and confidant – and loss of consortium payments are designed to make up for that loss as best they can.
  •  Pain and suffering. Subjective pain and suffering may also come into play. If the victim experienced pain or discomfort before passing, you may receive even more compensation.

Talking to a Lawyer

If you have a loved one who has died prematurely, and you suspect you may have a wrongful death case on your hands, talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help you better understand the nature of your case, your options moving forward, and the best course of action to win a settlement and find some peace of mind.