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What Is ‘Wrongful Death,’ and Can I Recover Compensation?

When a person dies in an accident due to another person’s negligence, it can leave the surviving family members with medical and funeral expenses and other financial losses. Many family members are unsure whether they can sue the other party for their misconduct.

CALC and our wrongful death attorneys often receive such queries, which is why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on your rights as a grieving family member.

What Is ‘Wrongful Death’?

Wrongful death is a claim brought in a civil action against a defendant who has caused someone’s death.

It can help the grieving family receive compensation for the survivor’s losses, and there may be one or many people financially dependent on the decedent, which is why a wrongful death action is a way for them to seek compensation.

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

People who have lost their loved one due to another’s negligence can sue the negligent party, including a driver, doctor, government agency, and other parties who had a duty of care towards the decedent.

However, generally, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit. It all depends on the state laws.

There may be more than one person who could be eligible for damages; the state laws help determine who can sue and the limits on the recoverable damages. In most states, the immediate family members have the right to recovery. However, depending on the state, other people could also have the right to recovery.

The personal representative of the decedent’s estate may also decide to pursue a survival action for the victim’s suffering if they died a few days following the accident.

When Do Wrongful Death Claims Apply

There are several situations in which a person may file a wrongful death claim, and some of them include the following.

Intentional Killing

When a person murders another, they will face criminal charges, but the surviving family members may also bring a wrongful death action. A civil action is different from a criminal case, and family members have the right to recovery if that happens.

Medical Malpractice

A doctor has the duty to ensure the highest quality medical care to their patient; failing to do so makes them liable for any injuries or deaths caused. 

Surviving family members may be able to bring wrongful death suits against the negligent medical provider or doctors for their loss.

Car Accident

An intoxicated, reckless, or negligent driver who doesn’t follow the traffic rules can result in an accident, which can cause injuries or death. Such irresponsible actions can create grounds for a wrongful death case.

Many other accidents can lead to wrongful deaths, and speaking to an experienced attorney can help family members determine whether they have grounds for wrongful death claims.

Elements of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Before an individual can bring a wrongful death lawsuit following the decedent’s death, they must prove wrongful death elements, including:

  • The defendant owed a duty of care and failed to act with ordinary, reasonable care.
  • The person died due to the accident.
  • The death of the person resulted due to the defendant’s negligence.
  • The deceased person’s death caused the family emotional and financial damages.

You have a wrongful death case if all the elements can be proven. However, to bring a wrongful death claim, it must be within the time constraints outlined in the state’s statute of limitations.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

The wrongful death statute of limitations specifies the time one has to pursue a wrongful death claim, and each state has its own wrongful death statute, which may vary significantly from one state to the other.

Damages You Can Recover in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

You can recover several types of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit, which vary from one case to another.

The most common types of recoverable damages include:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of inheritance.

There are many other damages one can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit, and in some cases, the court may also award punitive damages to punish the negligent party.

Speaking to an experienced wrongful death attorney can help assess the damages and maximize your wrongful death settlement.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts Determined?

How much you receive in a wrongful death settlement depends on several factors, including the age of the deceased person, the medical bills, and the funeral costs incurred by the decedent’s survivors. The insurers use the multiplier or the per diem method to calculate the claim’s value.

Schedule a Free Consultation with CALC Recommended Accident Firm

If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, contact us at for a free consultation with an outside lawyer, as you may qualify for compensation.

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