Wrongful Death Guide

FREQUENTLY ASKED LEGAL QUESTIONS ABOUT WRONGFUL DEATH CASES

What is a Wrongful Death?

If an individual is killed because of wrongful conduct, the family of the victim and the other beneficiaries may be able to file a wrongful death action against the person or the people who are responsible for the incident.

 

This Tort Law is governed by the statute. But the wrongful death statutes differ from every state. Here is the link to Georgia's CodeBut generally, this will define who may sue for wrongful death and if there are any limits applied to the damages. 

Even before, the wrongful death statutes were created to provide the needed financial support for the widows and orphans and also to motivate people to exercise extra care to prevent injuries.

 

A wrongful death action is separate and very different from criminal charges. And neither of these two proceedings affects or controls the other. This only means that the defendant acquitted of murder can still be sued by the victim’s family in a civil action for wrongful death.

Does a Wrongful Death have to be caused intentionally?

Wrongful deaths can be INTENTIONAL or UNINTENTIONAL.

 

These actions cause injury which results in death. For example, a blow to the head during an argument which will later result in the death of the person is a type of injury that is intentionally caused.

 

Another example is when the driver of a car unintentionally causes the death of another person in an accident can be sued for negligence. And if a person who violates the local law neglects to enclose a swimming pool which causes an accident of a child can be held responsible for his actions.

 

You must remember that the wrongful death statutes do not apply to an unborn fetus since the individual has no legal status until he is born alive. But an exemption is, when an infant is born alive and later on passes away because of the injury caused before he is born, this can lead to wrongful death.

Wrongful Death: When Is It Applicable?

 

A wrongful death claim is only applicable when a victim who was supposed to file a personal injury claim is killed because of the negligence of the person at fault or it can because of an intentional act.

Here are the situations that wrongful death can be applicable.

 

  • The victim is intentionally killed.
  • The victim dies because of medical malpractice. If for example, a doctor fails to diagnose a condition and if the doctor was too careless in providing care and results to death, it is considered as a wrongful act and can be taken against the doctor.
  • Vehicular accident death because of negligence. When a victim dies because of the car accident injuries, a wrongful death claim is applicable.

Who Is Entitled To Compensation Following A Wrongful Death??

Individuals entitled to wrongful death compensation will depend on the state statute.

 

There are statutes that provide for the recovery by the surviving spouse, or next of kin, or maybe the children. There are some states that allow a surviving spouse to take action even when they are separated unless the spouse is proven guilty of desertion or maybe the spouse did not provide support.

 

There are some instances that the children will file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their parents. And parents will also be able to file a lawsuit for the wrongful death of their children. There are some states that only minor children will be allowed to sue the one responsible for the wrongful death of their parents. And there are some state statutes that will not allow the parents to file a suit for an adult child who is already financially independent or married.

Wrongful Death Claim: Who Can File?

The claim is brought about by an estate representative of the victim. This will be on behalf of the survivors related to the victim. Remember that the considered survivors would be different in every state.

 

A spouse should be able to take action for the wrongful death on behalf of the deceased husband or wife. For the parents of the minors who were killed, they should also be able to bring a wrongful death action.

 

The argument in some states is if the parent of adult children, or if adult children can sue the responsible person for their parents, or whether the grown siblings can bring a wrongful death action.

The case where the relatives left are cousins, aunts, and uncles, or even grandparents are also the same. The case is, the more distant the family relationship is, the more difficult it will be to decide if you are allowed to claim for the wrongful death.

What Must Be PROVEN When Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

For the defendant to be liable for the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff should be able to meet the proof required. Here is an article that talks about evidence.

 

This will be the same proof that the deceased victim would have provided if he or she lived.

By using “negligence” against the defendant, this goes to show that the defendant needs to provide the victim with their deserved care.

 

This also means that the defendant did not meet his required duties where these duties were the cause of the death of the victim. This also means that the death of the victim caused the damages which the plaintiff now in trying to recover.

 

How do you Prove “Negligence” In Wrongful Death Case?

Usually, the damages that are made incurred in a wrongful death case is different from the other standard negligence case. Still, the plaintiff should be able to prove this in the lawsuit. 

 

The things that needed proof will be duty, breach of duty and also the causes and damages. You can learn more about these here.

 

The Defendant’s Responsibility - Wrongful Death Damages

For the person to be able to sue for wrongful death, there should be proof that the defendant’s acts have caused the decedent's injuries and death. This only means that the wrongful acts of the defendant have made natural reactions that have led to an injury that caused death.


Compensatory Damages - Each state law decides about the number of damages that can be covered by the statutory beneficiaries. Compensatory Damages are intended to make sure that it covers the amount of the money that was lost like the damages in the wrongful death actions.

The plaintiffs may be able to recover for the medical and the funeral expenses which will be in addition to the amount of the economic support that you will receive if the decedent lived. This amount will sum up to compensate for the grief as well as the loss of services and companionship.

 

Punitive Damages - This will be given in a wrongful death case if ever the actions of the defendant are proven reckless. Punitive Damages are meant to teach the defendant a lesson for his actions and will be awarded by the jury. The damages recovered will be distributed to the survivors. This will be divided based on the less of the beneficiary.

There are different categories of the losses for the damages of a wrongful death claim where a survivor will be able to receive compensation.

The categories are as follows:

  • The pain and suffering of the deceased person before he or she passed away. This is also called a survival claim.
  • It also includes medical costs where the deceased victim has spent because of the injury before death.
  • The funeral as well as the burial costs.
  • The loss of income of the deceased person.
  • The loss of inheritance because of the early death.
  • The average value of the services that the decedent could have provided.
  • The loss of love and companionship to spouse and children.

What is Considered For The Computation of Wrongful Death Damages?

There are certain factors to be considered when determining the amount of the damages for the wrongful death. In order to compute the compensation, the salary of the decedent that he or she could have earned will be multiplied to the number of years of the possible number of years that the decedent could have lived but will also be adjusted with inflation.

 

There are actual tables used as a guide for the average life expectancy depending on the age and gender. The health status, as well as the nature of his or her work, will also be taken into consideration by the jury.

Our personal injury attorneys work hard to help our clients get the maximum compensation after a wrongful death.  

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