Wrongful death lawsuits fall under the category of personal injury law. The untimely death of a loved one puts their family members in a difficult situation financially, emotionally as well as legally. Wrongful death claims have a number of legal issues surrounding them where causation and liability have to be proven on the part of the defendant. Apart from these, a number of other requirements must be met in order to pursue a wrongful death claim.
The following elements of liability need to be proven in a valid wrongful death claim:
- Duty – In any wrongful death claim, it must be proven that the responsible party, also called the defendant, had a duty to protect your loved one from harm.
- Breach of Duty – The second thing to prove is that the defendant acted negligently or failed to act in a normally expected manner.
- Causation – The next thing to be proven is that the Breach of Duty by the defendant actually resulted in the injury or death of the loved one.
- Damages – The last element in any valid wrongful death claim is to identify if the Breach of Duty resulted in significant physical or financial harm.
If a loved one has been a victim of negligence, resulting in injury or death, you need to get in touch with a wrongful death attorney. In order to legally prove the wrongful death claim as valid, the attorney will carefully address each of the above mentioned elements.
Firstly, the attorney will have to prove that the accused party had a duty to act responsibly in order to establish the element of duty. It must also be proven that when the party acted in a negligent manner, they were fully aware of the associated consequences.
Secondly, the attorney will have to prove that they breached their duty when they failed to meet the expected standard of care. The attorney will examine the facts of the case in order to determine which standard of care applied in that case. For example, health care providers are expected to show a high standard of care which you do not expect from any one passing on the street.
Thirdly, it must be proven that the act of negligence or failure to act responsibly by the defendant actually resulted in the wrongful death of the victim. In case several factors contributed to the death of the victim, proving cause may be difficult. The attorney will look at the different tests used by states to determine whether causation existed or not.
Lastly, the attorney will have to measure the extent of the damages economically. Courts use fixed formulas to calculate the extent of damages. Age of the deceased and their financial contribution all have an impact on the damages in wrongful death lawsuits.
Understanding the Legal Process
In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, a legal process needs to be followed. This legal procedure starts with an investigation, which is followed by strategy for the claim. The lawsuit then goes through a demand and mediation procedure before a resolution is reached.
During the investigation phase, the attorney will meet with witnesses and consult other experts in their field. Documents will be collected to support the wrongful death claim. Then the attorney will come up with a strategy for the claim. Developing a strategy may not be possible until the investigation is complete. Once the attorney has a strategy, the case then goes through the demand and mediation procedure. This happens before the lawsuit goes before a judge or jury. During this phase, the attorney will take action against the liable party. The wrongful death attorney will either file a demand letter or file for relief. If an agreement is reached, the case will be settled, otherwise the claim will go to trial and the damages will be determined by a jury.