Losing a close family member in an unexpected accident is the most difficult thing that anyone may have to endure. It will take years to come to terms with the person’s death, and the emotional trauma of the loss will never fully disappear.
The best that loved ones can do is seek some form of closure. While time can be the healer of all wounds in this regard, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can also bring family members a sense of justice and closure by providing them a feeling that the party that caused their loved one’s death has been held responsible.
When can a family member file a wrongful death suit?
Parents, children, spouses and certain financial dependents of the deceased are usually the only ones who can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit after someone dies due to the negligence, recklessness or unlawful behavior of another party. For those who are eligible to file such a claim, here is what their lawsuit will need to prove:
- Someone has died: This death may be the result of taking the wrong medication, getting into a car accident, tripping and falling, getting hurt by a defective product or any number of unlimited causes.
- The negligence or criminal behavior of another party caused the death: Another party’s negligent, reckless, criminal or unlawful actions caused the person to die. This wrongfully acting party could be a person, a business, the government or an institution. Perhaps a business built a dangerous product, a criminal attacked the person, a driver broke the law by speeding or driving drunk, or someone was negligent and it resulted in the other person’s death.
- Close family members have been hurt by the death: Close family members of the deceased need to be living and they need to have suffered harm as a result of the death. This harm will often be financial in nature due to lost family income, lost future inheritance, lost spousal services and other types of calculable financial losses. It can also be emotional harm – such as loss of companionship and loss of parental relationship – to which the court can assign a monetary value.
- The decedent’s estate has a personal representative: The personal representative of the decedent’s estate is necessary to assist in bringing forward the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of surviving family members and beneficiaries.
Did you lose a loved one in a fatal accident?
Following any kind of unexpected fatal accident, close family members may want to investigate the incident and applicable laws to determine if the facts support a claim for wrongful death damages.