What is Wrongful Death and Who Can File a Claim?


Wrongful death is a type of personal injury that takes a loved one away from dependents due to the negligence, intentional actions, or reckless accident of another person or a business.  Some examples include car crashes, medical malpractice, construction accidents, defective products, and serious medication side effects not made public.

Why Get an Attorney?

Guidance, support, and explanations at every step can make a substantial difference in how successful a claimant becomes at getting the compensation sought and deserved.  Cases tend to be confusing and complex.  Compensation can be settled or awarded for several reasons.

A spouse and children can seek damages to maintain their current lifestyle, ensure opportunities in the future, replace the loss of inheritance, pay for emotional support and traumatic recovery services, and coverage of final expenses for the deceased, among other reasons.  A foundation or charity founded by the person gone due to wrongful death may sue for continued financial support.  Other examples of compensation are listed at www.AllInjuryAttorney.com.


Another reason to get an attorney is that each state has different laws regarding wrongful death cases.  One law dictates the statute of limitations, or time allowed, to file a claim.  Many states place the statute at two-years from the date of death.

Under some circumstances in California, claims can be filed three-years from the date of the alleged wrongful death.  Kentucky statute of limitations is one year from the date of death or the date of discovery.  This means that if wrongful death was not suspected or noticed immediately, claimants can file even if the one-year has expired.

An Example

A product is proven to have caused the death of a person because the model was defective in design.  Dependents who can prove the same product was used at the time of death of their loved one will have one-year from that date to file a claim.  An experienced attorney will be needed in these cases.

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Most claims are filed by a spouse, children, or a representative of the estate.  Other dependents, such as employees, business partners, a mistress, or a person who has been financially or emotionally supported by the deceased can also file a wrongful death lawsuit.  This is where claims can get complicated.

An individual who is unknown to the immediate family may file a claim and must prove dependency to continue with the case.  A child from an affair, for example, could be supported unbeknownst to the surviving wife.  These claims are often challenged which drags out a case and invites negative publicity and personal animosity.

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff and the attorney have the same burden of proof as if the victim lived through the accident or incident.  In the case of negligence, the same points must be proved for the deceased as it would for someone who suffered serious or permanent injuries or disability.  These include:

  1. The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care
  2. The defendant breached that duty
  3. The breach caused the death
  4. That death caused the damages for which compensation is desired

Wrongful death leaves survivors shocked, traumatized, and often in financial hardship.  If the death was caused by another party due to actions, inactions, or failure to keep the victim safe filing a claim can make up for some aspects of the loss.  Contact an attorney for a consultation if there is any doubt about the cause of an unexpected death.


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