Losing a loved one to death can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. But losing a loved one due to someone else’s actions can be even more devastating, especially if the loss was unexpected.
Likewise, a person can bring wrongful death lawsuits against someone who, through intentional actions or negligence, caused another’s death. The deceased’s estate or family can bring a lawsuit against the responsible party. Often, families file these claims if they could not get justice through criminal charges.
Wrongful Death Claim Examples
Some of the more common reasons that someone can file a wrongful death include:
- car accidents
- medical malpractice
- criminal actions
- defective products
- childcare neglect
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
Criminal charges do not have to be filed against the defendant to win a wrongful death lawsuit.
Because they are civil cases, wrongful death lawsuits do not require “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” The law only requires that in criminal cases.
However, any evidence that an attorney presents in a civil case should support the plaintiff’s claims.
The evidence must show that the defendant’s negligence, or carelessness, resulted in death. Attorneys can show negligence in three areas.
These areas are:
- Duty of Care
- Breach of Duty
- Cause of Death
Duty of Care:
Duty of care is the obligation of a person or organization to take all reasonable measures to prevent actions that could result in harm to others.
Example: A motorist has a duty of care to drive safely and protect others from harm.
All motorists have a minimal obligation to keep themselves and others safe while operating a motor vehicle.
That means that all motorists should obey traffic laws, not drive distracted, maintain the condition of their vehicles, not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and adhere to any signs that control the flow of traffic.
In wrongful death claims, the attorneys will examine everything the defendant did or did not do while driving a vehicle. This examination will help determine whether or not he was responsibly operating the vehicle.
If it is found that the motorist’s actions were below the minimal standard, like those mentioned above, then he did not maintain duty of care.
Breach of Duty:
Once the plaintiff’s lawyer establishes duty of care, the next step is determining how the defendant breached that duty.
Example: A motorist is speeding, driving drunk, or driving recklessly, which results in harm to others.
Failing to observe traffic laws, not paying attention to posted traffic signs, speeding, speeding while driving in hazardous conditions, swerving in and out of traffic, driving impaired, or texting while driving are all actions that can be considered a breach of duty.
If a motorist is found to have committed any of these violations, he did not perform his minimal duty of maintaining the safety of others.
Lawyers can use statements from passengers, eyewitnesses, and bystanders; video from cell phones or traffic lights; and even pictures to prove a breach of duty.
Cause of Death:
If the plaintiff’s attorney establishes duty of care and that the defendant breached that duty, then they must prove that a breach of duty caused harm to another person.
Example: A motorist with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit gets behind the wheel, drives, and causes the death of another. Ultimately that person failed to take reasonable measures to prevent harm.
If a motorist hits another person’s car while driving drunk, and the individual they hit is killed, that action directly caused the death.
It is illegal to drive with a blood-alcohol level higher than the legal limit. Drug and alcohol tests can be used to prove those actions contributed to the death.
Likewise, lawyers can also use accident reports and statements from witnesses, law enforcement, and medical and legal professionals to prove that the actions of one individual resulted in the death of another.
Additionally, an attorney can collect and examine evidence that they can directly credit to the death.
When Should I Contact an Attorney?
Even though it may appear that a wrongful death claim is obviously present, it is wise to consult with a legal professional who understands the law and your rights.
You should contact an attorney as soon as there is any indication that you might have a legal claim of wrongful death. It is in your best interest to fully understand which factors may impact a claim. An experienced attorney can answer all of your questions and provide guidance.