The loss of a loved one is a tragic event under any circumstances, but when the death was caused by someone else’s negligence the family may be able to pursue legal action against the responsible party. A wrongful death cause of action may allow the family to hold the negligent party responsible and to receive compensation for damages.
Whether it be a fatal motor vehicle accident, a traumatic brain injury, a workplace accident, medical malpractice or even murder, where the decedent’s death was caused by the negligence or intent of another party there may be a cause of action for wrongful death. The standard for proving wrongful death in a civil action requires only a preponderance of the evidence; this is much lower than the standard of proof for any criminal action. As such, if a party has been charged criminally but is not convicted, that does not mean that the person will not be found liable in a wrongful death civil action.
Only the personal representative of a decedent’s estate may bring a wrongful death action. The measure of damages available to the decedent’s family in such a case may include compensation for financial and pecuniary injuries. This includes medical expenses prior to death, expenses related to funeral and burial of the decedent, loss of earnings, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, as well as damages for pain and suffering.
There are many factors to consider when determining the amount of damages to be rewarded in a wrongful death claim. Of particular importance will be a consideration of the decedent’s circumstances at the time of death, such as age, health, life expectancy, earning capacity, family, etc. For instance, in a case where the decedent was a father providing for a family with young dependent children, a major portion of damages will be consideration of the loss income and financial support, and may also include a consideration for loss of parental guidance and emotional support.
These types of wrongful death actions can be highly emotional as well as legally challenging and it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to assist with your claim.