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Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death is a lawsuit brought by a family member of the deceased victim against the person who caused the death. A wrongful death lawsuit can also be brought against businesses, government agencies, or other organizations, not just individuals.

The standard of proof for wrongful death claims is also lower than criminal cases; in other words, it is easier to win a wrongful death case than it is to get a conviction for a criminal case. Wrongful death and criminal prosecution, however, are not mutually exclusive. An individual may be sued for wrongful death in civil court and be brought to stand trial in a criminal court.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Generally, only immediate family members of the person who died (the "decedent") can sue for wrongful death. Some states include domestic or life partners, including a person who had a good faith belief that he or she would have been married to the person who died. Also, some states include extended family members.

What Actions Can Result in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Responsibility for a person's death can arise from any of the following actions:

  • Negligent or careless acts
  • A reckless act
  • An intentional act

Damages Recoverable for a Wrongful Death

Family members suing an individual or organization for wrongful death usually can collect for:

  • Medical and funeral expenses (all expenses directly associated with death)
  • Loss of earnings (potential)
  • Loss of benefits (health and medical)
  • Loss of goods and services the victim could have provided
  • Loss of inheritance due to untimely death
  • Loss of care, protection and companionship to survivors
  • Punitive damages, if the conduct was intentional, malicious or egregious

Bringing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Each state has a "statute of limitations," which is the time limit when you are permitted to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If you delay past this time period, you will be prohibited from bringing a lawsuit in Court. The clock usually starts when the person dies, and continues out for generally at least a year. Consult with a local lawyer to learn more about when you must bring a wrongful death lawsuit in your area.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death

If the negligence was not discovered as a cause of death immediately, some states extend the time limit within which to bring a wrongful death lawsuit until the time of discovery.

Seeking Legal Help

If your loved one died due to the actions of another, you should speak to a lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. A lawyer will be able to explain the value of your case and help you navigate through the complicated legal process. Most lawyers who handle wrongful death matters work on a contingency basis.

Vea esta página en español: Muerte Injusta o visita para más información legal.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 10-27-2015 04:16 PM PDT

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