Wrongful Death Legal Actions
In civil cases, when a person dies as a result of the negligence or intentional act of another it is called a “wrongful death” claim. The person(s) bringing the wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate, (usually the legal heirs of the decedent) must file a legal action against the defendant and must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was a substantial factor in causing the decedents death. Every state currently has its own form of wrongful death law.
The defendant in a wrongful death action can be an individual, corporation, partnership, or even a local or federal government. It can result from simple negligence, such as running a red light, to a death caused by a defective product or medication. It can also result from professional negligence as in the case of medical malpractice.
In wrongful death claims, most states permit the plaintiff to recover economic damages, loss of support, services and comfort, and if the conduct was intentional or so reckless as to amount to malicious conduct, the plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages, though being able to prove such conduct within the context of a civil action can be extremely difficult and even more difficult to be upheld at the appellate level. The damages relating to wrongful death actions technically belong to the estate which then passes to different parties as directed by the decedent’s will or through intestate succession.
When a family member or loved one is lost to an accident the last thing you want to think about are the legal ramifications of what has happened. However, if the death was the fault of another, it is wise to act quickly before valuable evidence is lost or discarded. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney will provide you with the information you need and if retained, will gather the necessary evidence in preparing and prosecuting your case.