How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

Wrongful death lawsuits are specific types of cases that result from negligence or some intentional act. A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by the individual’s estate or by their loved ones against the person or persons who are liable for the event. Each state has its own specific guidelines for wrongful death. Still, these kinds of suits are most typically filed by the representative of the deceased individual’s estate, on behalf of the surviving members of the person’s family. As we will see, the person who has the right to file this suit varies by location.

Qualification for the Claim

Wrongful death doesn’t come up in most situations where someone dies. The specific events that lead to a claim come from a victim who would have otherwise had a valid claim for personal injury, but died due to that injury. Several situations present themselves as potentials for these kinds of suits, including:

  • Car accident fatalities: Death can result from a car crash, where injuries from the accident led to someone’s death
  • Medical malpractice: If someone dies from a medical practitioner failing to diagnose a condition or provide proper care, then a wrongful death claim applies
  • Intentional killing: If someone was intentionally responsible for ending another’s life, the estate of that person could then file a suit

Proving Wrongful Death

As mentioned before, if the individual who was killed had survived, he/she would have been able to file a valid claim for personal injury and seek legal help. The burden of proof is the same in this case, as the person filing the claim must prove that the negligent party was indeed responsible for their loved one’s death. The person’s death would then lead to damages, both economic and emotional, to the victim’s family, and the settlement would take these elements into account when calculating the compensation.

Filing the Lawsuit

While there are per-state differences in filing this type of suit, a spouse retains the power to file the lawsuit against the negligent party for the death of their significant other. In the case of minors, their parents or guardians are responsible for filing a wrongful death claim. Each state has different rules for adult children filing suits for their deceased parents and parents filing for compensation after their adult children died. Extended relatives such as grandparents or cousins may file wrongful death claims in certain states but not others.