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The Basics of Wrongful Death Claims

If a person dies as the result of another person's negligence this could be the basis for awrongful death lawsuit. In a wrongful death claim the person who caused the death will be under investigation to see if they are liable. For example, if a person dies as the result of a drunken driver, a doctors malpractice, or improper safety conditions at work they could potentially be wrongful death victims.


Wrongful death claims are dependent on laws of the individual state where the death occurs. All states require someone filing a wrongful death lawsuit to prove that the person, organization, or government agency they claim caused the death actually did. The circumstance of each individual case determines the person or entity liable for wrongful death. For example, if a family member dies as a result of a car crash, his /her family members are allowed to sue the car manufacturer, the other driver, or even the government agency responsible of maintaining the roadway where the accident happened.

Wrongful death or crime?

Wrongful death can occur through crime. This calls for distinction between a criminal case and a wrongful death lawsuit.

Crime. In a criminal case, a state or federal prosecutor files criminal charges against a person accused of committing a crime. If that person pleads guilty or is convicted after trial, he or she is subject to serve a jail sentence, pay a fine, or be punished with other criminal penalties.

Wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit does not determine whether a person committed a wrongful death or not. In a wrongful death case, a person who represents the interests of the deceased person, a relative of that person, or other interested party, files a civil lawsuit against the person who caused the death. In the civil lawsuit, the defendant is accused of acting negligently to cause the victim's death, and if the defendant loses, he/she will have to pay damages to the person who sued. Losing a civil case does not imply going to jail. It simply means you must compensate the plaintiff for any damages that resulted after the victim's death.

Wrongful death claims

The idea behind a wrongful death lawsuit is relatively new in the eyes of the law. In these types of cases, it is obviously not the deceased person who sues the person responsible for the death, but rather a representative of the deceased, whose interests were infringed by the death of the victim. For example, the immediate family members of a person who died can sue for wrongful death because they have suffered emotional, personal, or financial harm. Similarly, intimate partners, distant family members, and even those who dependent on the deceased person for financial support are also allowed to file this lawsuit.

However, like any other lawsuit, the laws that govern wrongful death are significantly different between states. Therefore, it is always in your best interest to talk to our personal injury lawyers to make sure your wrongful death suit has some grounds upon which your case can stand.

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