The most serious type of personal injury claim is wrongful death. In most cases, wrongful death claims are brought by the decedent’s surviving family members in an effort to recover damages for losses sustained as a result of the decedent’s passing. These claims typically emerge when one person’s negligence or willful actions result in the death of another. These claims are particularly frequent in cases of medical negligence, but they can also occur in a variety of other circumstances, such as when someone dies as a result of a car accident, a dangerous product, or nursing facility maltreatment.
Below are some elements of a typical wrongful death claim.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
Most wrongful death lawsuits, though not all of them, are founded on the idea that the decedent’s death was brought about by negligence rather than malicious behavior. The plaintiff must establish each of the four elements of a typical negligence cause of action, which are listed below, in order to succeed in a wrongful death action based on negligence.
Each of us has a moral obligation to treat another person in a certain way and that is our duty as individuals. For instance, drivers have a responsibility to respect traffic laws and avoid endangering other road users, just as doctors have a responsibility to treat their patients in a medically appropriate manner.
When someone behaves in a way that is not in accordance with the law, this is considered a breach of duty. If a doctor had exercised reasonable care, they would not have prescribed a drug to which the patient was allergic, for instance, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice action can demonstrate a breach of duty by presenting evidence to support their claim. In a car accident lawsuit, the plaintiff might demonstrate that the at-fault driver violated their duty of care by presenting proof that they were traveling 20 mph over the speed limit, which is considered a traffic infraction.
When the plaintiff would not have experienced harm but for the defendant’s duty violation, there has been causation. In the abovementioned car accident example, the plaintiff could prove causation by presenting proof that, had the other motorist been following the speed limit at the time of the collision, they would not have sustained injuries.
When the plaintiff has incurred harm that can be fixed through financial recompense, damages exist. The plaintiff in the abovementioned car accident could demonstrate damages by submitting medical costs incurred as a result of treating his or her injuries. This element is quite simple to prove.
Prevailing in a Wrongful Death Claim
Therefore, in order for a plaintiff to win a wrongful death claim, they should be able to prove that:
- That the defendant owed a duty to the decedent to refrain from causing the type of harm the decedent suffered
- That the defendant breached this duty by acting carelessly, recklessly, or otherwise failing to exercise the duty of care owed to the decedent by law
- That the defendant’s actions really caused the decedent’s death, and
- That the decedent and the decedent’s survivors have suffered losses as a result of the death (e.g., pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of earnings and future earnings, etc.).
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