What is wrongful death?
The loss of a loved one is one of the most difficult and emotional events on the spectrum of human experience. This event is made even more traumatic when it is caused by the malicious intent, negligence, recklessness or carelessness of another person. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, it is important to understand your legal rights so that you can take appropriate next steps and be sure that justice is served.
Quite simply, wrongful death exists when someone is shown to be legally culpable for the death of another person. Legal culpability is determined when it can be proven that the person or persons at fault failed to act in a reasonable manner, thus causing the death at hand.
Wrongful death lawsuit components
First, duty of care must be established. In other words, you must be able to prove that the defendant owed some reasonable level of action to the deceased. Duty of care applies differently depending on different situations and circumstances. For example, all drivers share the duty of care to follow traffic laws & drive in a safe manner. If a driver runs a red light, thus causing an accident which leads to a death, that may be a wrongful death claim. Or, you can say that a nanny or babysitter in your employ has the duty of care to diligently and safely watch your children. If he/she leaves your children alone, which leads to an accident resulting in death, that might be a wrongful death claim.
Breach of duty logically follows once duty of care has been established. It must be proven that the defendant breached whatever duty he/she owed to the deceased. This means that the defendant acted inconsistently with the way any reasonable person would have acted in the situation.
The third element in a wrongful death claim is causation. You must be able to show that the defendant’s actions or inaction caused or contributed to the death in question. A direct link between the defendant’s choices & actions and the death must be established. Could the accident have been prevented if the driver had not been drunk? That is causation. Would the child not have wandered into the pool had the babysitter been present to watch him/her? That is causation.
Finally, damages must be proven. Of course, one obvious damage in any wrongful death suit is the unnecessary & unjust loss of life. Damages can also extend to emotional & monetary suffering experienced by the loved ones of the deceased.