We have spoken before in this blog about wrongful death litigation, and why families of a person killed as a result of someone else’s negligence often choose to file suit. Though the circumstances of a wrongful death case are usually much more serious than the typical personal injury claim, the elements of a successful case are somewhat similar.
In brief, the plaintiffs must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the following four things are true:
1. A human being died;
2. The death was caused by another party’s negligence (or intent to cause harm);
3. The deceased person had family members who have suffered monetary injury as a result of the death;
4. A personal representative has been appointed for the deceased’s estate.
As we discussed back on Apr. 7, the main type of damages families seek in wrongful death litigation is pecuniary damages. This refers to direct financial losses, like medical and funeral costs and loss of the deceased’s financial support. However, the loss of emotional support and guidance can also be factors, especially if the deceased left behind children.
The personal representative can also seek damages for any pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death. This is known as a “survival action.”
In some cases, when the defendant’s actions were particularly malicious or egregious, the plaintiff may be able to pursue punitive damages. This form of damages goes beyond compensating the plaintiff. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant.
Losing a loved one is always heartbreaking, but especially when they die in an incident caused by someone else. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to handle wrongful death litigation with sensitivity while helping families get justice.