The Legalities of a Wrongful Death Claim


The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 224,935 people died from unintentional injuries in the U.S. in 2021. In some cases, such injuries are caused by the misconduct or negligent actions of another party, opening up the possibility of a wrongful death claim being brought by the victim’s surviving loved ones.

Wrongful death cases can arise as a result of various situations such as medical malpractice, construction accidents, premises liability, traffic-related accidents, and defective products. In these situations, a civil action may be brought against the responsible party seeking compensation for matters like pain and suffering, funeral expenses, loss of future earnings and loss of consortium.

If you have lost a loved one due to the fault of another party, you may consider filing a wrongful death claim. For expert legal advice, contact Tom Fowler Law to help you get the justice you deserve. This article will discuss the legalities involved with bringing a wrongful death claim in more detail below.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a legal action brought by surviving family members against a person or entity who knowingly or negligently caused the deceased’s death. The law allows spouses and children to be awarded damages from a wrongful death lawsuit, however, some states may also allow parents, siblings, or other dependents to recover damages.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant's intentional actions or negligence were the direct cause of their loved one’s death. Unlike the high burden of proof required in a criminal charge, where negligence must be established 'beyond a reasonable doubt,' a civil wrongful death action requires the plaintiff to prove the defendant's negligence by a ‘preponderance of the evidence’. This means that the evidence presented must show that it is more likely than not that the arguments put forward against the defendant are true.

Establishing Wrongful Death

To establish wrongful death the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff who must show that the elements below applied to the facts:

  • Duty of care: The defendant had a duty to act in a manner that a reasonable person would, in order to avoid causing harm to others. For example, a doctor has a duty of care to their patients to provide a certain level of care.
  • Breach of duty: This can be demonstrated through evidence of intentional wrongdoing, recklessness or negligence. For example, an employer's failure to provide mandatory safety equipment and training can amount to a breach of duty of care, potentially resulting in a fatal workplace accident.
  • Causation: Here the plaintiff must establish a direct connection between the defendant’s actions and the victim’s death. This requires proving that their death, or the injuries they sustained which eventually led to their death, were a direct consequence of the defendant’s breach of duty. This may involve evidence such as expert medical testimony, accident reconstruction experts, autopsy reports and other evidence which can prove causation.
  • Damages: The victim’s death must have resulted in monetary damage such as loss of companionship or loss of the deceased’s future earning capacity.

This information can act as a useful guide when pursuing a wrongful death claim.


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