Groups » What to Remember When Suing for a Wrongful Death

When someone loses their life due to the negligence of another, the surviving members of the family can sue for a wrongful death. This type of a lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivors' loss in the form of lost wages of the deceased, lost companionship and expenses incurred during treatment.

A wrongful death suit can only be brought by a representative of the decedent's estate. It is important to keep in mind that every state has its own individual "wrongful death statutes", or procedures, for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent's death can also be brought by the plaintiff.

Basic Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

To bring a wrongful death case you must be able to prove the below mentioned four elements:

• The death of your loved one was caused by the defendant, in whole or in part.
• The death was caused as a direct result of negligence by the defendant.
• The death has had a grave impact on you and other surviving members of your family.
• The death resulted in monetary losses to you and/or your family

Wrongful death laws differ from state to state. The best way to know if you have a strong enough case is to consult a wrongful death lawyer in Raleigh before you decide to move forward. While wrongful death cases can arise from any personal injury case,some of the more

common situations when a wrongful death claim is usually applicable are:

The victim is intentionally killed – One of the prime examples of this is the infamous OJ Simpson trial where he was sued for the wrongful deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.

The victim dies due to medical negligence – When a doctor fails to diagnose a potentially life threatening ailment in time, or is careless in the treatment of the patient,he can be held liable for negligence.

The victim dies due to negligent driving – The loved ones of a car accident victim who succumbs to his/her injuries can bring a wrongful death case.

Grounds for Filing a Wrongful Death Case

The foundation of any wrongful death case is that not only did the plaintiff's loved one lose their life, but they did so because of someone else's negligence, recklessness or deliberate act, and the family of the individual are directly affected by it emotionally and financially.

These are the two facts that the plaintiff must prove in order to be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some common grounds for wrongful death cases can include accidental death in a car crash, a work related death, medical malpractice, or a death caused by an unlawful act. There is a statute of limitations, or deadline on wrongful death cases that differs from state to state. North Carolina, for instance, has a 2-year statute from the date of death to file a wrongful death case.

The Plaintiff Will Have to Prove That:

The Defendant Had a Duty to Save the Plaintiff– To prove this the plaintiff must establish grounds proving that the defendant owed the decedent "due care", the definition of which varies according to situations. In wrongful death lawsuits, a judge decides if the defendant owed the decedent "due care". The judge will also assess how gravely the plaintiff's failure to do his duty affected the decedent and assigns the moral blame.

There Was a Breach of Duty – If duty is determined, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed inperforming it.For example, a hospital nurse negligently giving the wrong medicine whichleads to a patient's death. In this case it is the nurse's duty to know the prescriptions and doses of the patients, failing to do so is textbook negligence and potentially life-threatening behavior.

This Breach of Duty Caused Harm to the Decedent –The burden of proof in such lawsuits lies on the plaintiff.They must prove that the failure to perform their duties efficiently led to the decedent's demise. Taking the example from the previous point, a nurse mixing up prescriptions and giving the patient a potentially fatal wrong medicine is a breach of duty. The plaintiff in this case will thus have to prove that the patient would have been healthy and/or gotten better with his original medication, had he been administered it. The complexity of proving causation varies for different cases.

The Decedent Actually Suffered Damages –The plaintiff will also have to prove that the breach of duty, resulting in harm to the decedent, caused the decedent to suffer damages. This is usually made apparent once the plaintiff has proven duty, breach of duty and causation.

Famous Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death cases have always caught the nation's attention. From the famous OJ Simpson trial to the Ford Motor Pinto explosions, there are examples galore which show how a wrongful death case can arise out of almost any personal injury.

The famous CNN talk show host Nancy Grace was sued for the wrongful death of a 21-year-old Florida mother.The young lady in question, Melinda Ducket had killed herself days after being confronted by Nancy Grace about the whereabouts of her missing 2-year-old son. The family of Melinda Ducket alleged that Nancy Grace caused severe emotional distress to her by insinuating that she had killed her son. This, according to the family, drove the young mother to take her own life hours before her appearance on the show was aired. The case was settled in 2010 for $200,000.

The famous "Saturday Night Live" actor and comedian Phil Hartman was shot and killed by his wife Brynn, who then committed suicide. Brynn Hartman's brother later sued the makers of Zoloft, an anti-depressant manufactured by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, which she was taking for panic attacks. He alleged this drug drove her insane and caused her to shoot her husband and herself. Pfizer later settled this case for an undisclosed amount.

While these lawsuits can never replace the human life lost, they can definitely help recompense the often devastating financial loss suffered that accompany it. A compensation obtained from a wrongful death lawsuit can help a family survive and provide them financial security when they are most likely to lose it.


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