How Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work

How Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work

What is a wrongful death lawsuit? When someone dies due to the negligence of another person or a company, the survivors (parents, spouse, etc.) can file a lawsuit claiming wrongful death. These lawsuits seek wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.


What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

There are elements that need to be present to successfully bring a wrongful death cause of action. They are as follows:

  • Death of a human being
  • Cause by another’s negligence (person or company)
  • Monetary injury suffered by family members as a result of the death
  • Personal representative of the decedent’s estate appointed


A wrongful death suit may come from a multitude of scenarios. A few of those may be:

  • Medical malpractice that has led to death
  • Automobile, airplane, or train accident that leads to death
  • Exposure to hazardous substances or conditions due to occupation
  • Criminal behavior
  • Death during a supervised activity



Who May Sue for Wrongful Death?

Survivors of the deceased can be named representative of the decedent’s estate. The following people qualify:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Immediate family members (adult children)
  • Parents of a deceased fetus (in some states)
  • Life partners and financial dependents
  • Distant family members (brothers, sisters, grandparents)


Who May be Sued for Wrongful Death?

There is a wide variety of people who can be held liable for wrongful death suits. For example, if the death was caused by medical malpractice the doctors, nurses, and aids can be held liable. In a death caused by a car accident the driver, designer or builders of the faulty roadway, government agency that failed to provide adequate warnings regarding a road hazard, manufacturer, distributor, or installer of a faulty part of the vehicle, etc. all could be held liable.


Types of Damages

There are three types of damages that can be awarded to survivors in a wrongful death lawsuit. They are:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the value of the financial distributions that would have been made had the person not died. These include:

  • Medical and funeral costs
  • Loss of victim’s earnings
  • Loss of benefits from victim’s job (insurance, pension)
  • Goods and services that the victim would have provided


Non-economic Damages

Non-economic damages may not tangible, but they have more value than economic. These include:

  • Damages for the survivor’s anguish, pain, and suffering
  • Loss of care, protection, guidance, etc. from the deceased
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Loss of consortium


Punitive damages

Punitive damages are awarded to punish those responsible for the wrongful death. These a dependent on the state and what they will allow. In some states, interest and attorney fees may be collected as well.


Time Limits

There is a thing called statue of limitations that must be followed. In most states, this is two years but can be as little as one. In special cases, the time does not start until the harm is discovered. For example, if the cause of death is not discovered for years, the statue of limitations may not start until it is discovered.

If you think a loved one’s death was due to neglect, you may want to seek legal help from an attorney that deals with wrongful death suits. They can help you determine if you have a case and help you determine what steps to take.