What is the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit?

In most personal injury litigation, one of the plaintiffs is the person directly harmed, allegedly because of the defendant’s negligence. But in a wrongful death case, the victim’s suffering is over. It is his or her grieving family that brings the suit.

Plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit typically seek compensation for their pecuniary, or financial, damages. Rather than physical or emotional injuries stemming from being the victim of negligence, pecuniary injuries are the result of experiencing the preventable death of a loved one at the hands of a negligent third party.

Pecuniary injuries can best be understood as how the victim’s death affected his or her family. After a death, spouses, parents and children experience the loss of the deceased’s support, both financial and emotional, and services he or she provided. From a financial perspective, they also must pay the victim’s medical and funeral expenses, and have lost the prospect of a future inheritance.

When determining the size of pecuniary loss, the court must consider the victim: how old he or she was at time of death, his or her character, earning capacity, life expectancy and health prior to the negligence that took his or her life. What condition the death left the plaintiffs is another consideration. Was the deceased the primary breadwinner and/or caregiver to children? Did his or her spouse rely on the deceased for income?

Having to relive a loved one’s death through litigation can be difficult, to say the least, but it is often the only way to bring the party responsible to justice. Please speak to a personal injury attorney for more information.

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