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Holding Negligence Accountable: What Constitutes a Wrongful Death Claim?

Nothing is as devastating as the loss of a loved one—especially when that loss could have been avoided. In tragic circumstances where negligence or intentional harm leads to a person’s death, it’s vital to understand that such cases can often be addressed through the legal system. To give you an overview, here’s a comprehensive list of what you need to know when considering a wrongful death claim.

Define Wrongful Death

The term’ wrongful death’ refers to a lawsuit brought against a party who has caused someone’s death either negligently or through intentional harm. The intent is to provide the deceased person’s family with compensation for their loss and hold those responsible accountable. States have specific laws governing wrongful death claims, with each setting different requirements and stipulations.

Identify the Liable Party

In a wrongful death claim, it’s crucial to establish who the liable party is. This may be straightforward, such as a medical professional who made an error resulting in death or a driver who caused a fatal accident. Other times, it can be more complex, such as in a defective product case where multiple parties may be responsible. Identifying the correct party is essential for a successful claim.

Prove Negligence

Negligence is the key factor in wrongful death cases. To succeed in your claim, you must demonstrate that the responsible party had a duty of care fitting the situation, that they breached that duty, and that their breach directly caused the death. This often requires substantial evidence and legal argumentation. Consulting with experienced wrongful death attorneys is typically the best course of action.

Understand Statutory Limitations

Every state has a statute of limitations, a legal time limit during which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. These limits vary by state but are generally between one to three years from the date of death. If the lawsuit is filed after this period, the court almost always dismisses it, making it critical to take swift action when considering a wrongful death claim.

Gather Evidence

Solid evidence is the backbone of a successful wrongful death case. This may include medical records, witness statements, accident reports, and any applicable expert testimonies. The strength of your evidence can significantly influence the outcome of your case. Thoroughly documenting everything related to the death is crucial in building a powerful wrongful death claim.

Calculate Damages

In wrongful death cases, damages can be both economic and non-economic. Economic damages involve tangible losses such as medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic damages pertain to emotional and psychological impacts, such as loss of companionship and pain and suffering. Calculating the full extent of these damages is a complex process, and once again, professional legal counsel is invaluable in ensuring no aspect is overlooked.

Filing the Wrongful Death Claim

Filing a wrongful death claim can be emotionally and legally complex. An attorney will generally file the claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate and surviving family members. It’s crucial to ensure that the claim is filed correctly and within the appropriate time frame to avoid complications or dismissal.

Going to Trial

If the wrongful death claim proceeds to trial, it can be a daunting process. The trial will involve presenting the case to a jury or judge, and the liable party will have the opportunity to contest your claims. Having experienced legal representation, like Gellhaus & Gellhaus, P.C., is crucial for navigating this process and advocating effectively for your case.

Settlements and Awards

Many wrongful death claims are settled before going to trial. A settlement is an agreement where the responsible party agrees to pay a certain amount of money to the deceased’s family. If the case goes to trial and is successful, the court will award damages based on the evidence and arguments presented.

Impact of a Claim

A successful wrongful death claim not only provides the family with financial compensation but also holds the negligent party accountable for their actions and aims to prevent future similar incidents. It can provide a sense of justice and closure, allowing the family to focus on healing and moving forward.

Understanding the intricacies of a wrongful death claim is crucial when facing such a difficult legal process. It involves identifying the liable party, proving negligence, and understanding the types of damages that can be sought. It’s an avenue to not only seek restitution for a family’s loss but also to take a stand against negligence in all its forms.

Author information: Addy Reeds is a freelance writer from Eugene, Oregon. She discovered her passion for journalism while attending the University of Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @addyreeds1;

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

If you find this type of information interesting or helpful, please visit my law firm's main website at You will find many more articles and links. Thank you for your time.

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