What Is Wrongful Death? Your Questions, Answered
There are a tragic number of wrongful deaths happening every year, or deaths happening that could have been prevented.
To give an example, medical error is the third most prevalent cause of death in the U.S., and this is just one category of wrongful death. The real numbers are incalculable, as this is often something that goes unnoticed, unquestioned, or even swept under the rug.
In order for proper justice to be served, someone must file a wrongful death case and pursue legal action against the party who is allegedly responsible.
So, what is wrongful death? And how do you know when you have a viable case? Keep reading to learn all about wrongful death and what comes next.
What is Wrongful Death?
Many people who believe they have a case wonder, “what is wrongful death, and what does it entail?” At its surface, it may seem self-explanatory: wrongful death means a death that should not have happened, or a death that could have been prevented. However, from a legal standpoint, figuring out how to define wrongful death becomes a little more complex.
Wrongful death is defined as any circumstance where a person dies (or is killed) due to the negligence, misconduct, or malicious intent of another person. Murder cases are considered wrongful deaths, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a considerable number of circumstances that bring on the question of wrongful death, and not all of them will result in criminal sentencing.
What is a Wrongful Death Case?
We’ve gone over the answer to “what is wrongful death?”, but what is a wrongful death case, and under what circumstances can one be filed?
In most cases, wrongful death lawsuits go hand-in-hand with criminal trials. These cases rely on similar evidence but the standard of proof is lower than, say, a murder conviction.
A wrongful death case will always have a party who is allegedly “liable” for that wrongful death. Evidence might find that that party was either criminally negligent or otherwise caused the death due to their actions (or inaction).
Here are a few examples of circumstances leading to a wrongful death:
- Medical malpractice
- Criminal wrongdoings
- Airplane or car accidents
- Death occurring during supervised activities
- Exposure to hazards in the workplace
If the defendant in a wrongful death case is found to be liable for that wrongful death, they may or may not be convicted for criminal wrongdoing. However, the primary cause for wrongful death lawsuits is to recoup financial losses that resulted from that wrongful death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?
A lawsuit for wrongful death can only be filed by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Typically, they work with a wrongful death attorney to determine the losses resulting from the death. Any damages awarded may be split amongst multiple beneficiaries in accordance with the will of the deceased.
Navigating the Aftermath of Wrongful Death
Dealing with the death of a loved one is extremely difficult, especially knowing that death could have been prevented. Wrongful death cases allow the estate of the deceased to recoup at least some of the resulting losses. Now we’ve answered “what is wrongful death?”, you’ll be prepared to navigate the aftermath.
For more legal topics, check out our other articles.