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How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action lawsuit brought by a family or representative on behalf of the eligible survivors who suffered from the descendant’s death. Anything from personal injury to death, car accidents, medical malpractice, and homicide can count under wrongful death.

In other words, wrongful death could be described as causing someone’s death through intentional action or negligence. It is filed against those who are responsible for the death of the victim. There are different rules for filing a wrongful death suit in different states.

The most common causes of wrongful death claim lawsuits are car accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence and abuse, liability due to faulty products, and workplace accidents (handled through worker’s compensation in most cases).

What Situation Calls For A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

If the defendant’s action caused death, whereas, without their action, the victim would have made a personal injury claim, you could file a wrongful death claim. There are many situations where this can be applied. It can be direct or indirect action that causes death.

An instance of a wrongful death claim was the famous case of Nancy Grace in September 2006. The plaintiff was the family of a 20-year-old mother in Florida who killed herself due to Grace’s insinuation that she had a hand in the disappearance of her two-year-old son. Melinda Duckett, the mother, was not a suspect at the time of the disappearance. The emotional distress that was caused by the interview caused Melinda to take her own life just before the show was about to be aired. The family sued, and ultimately the claim was settled for $200,000 in 2010.

Another example is the Ford Pinto case, where several vehicles exploded, resulting in the death of people. Ford was sued several times and settled by paying damages to the families of the victims.

In cases of medical malpractice, a wrongful death action can also be brought against the doctor.

Like these few examples, whenever there is a situation for personal injury resulting in death due to the defendant’s action, it can bring on a wrongful death lawsuit. An exception to the same can be a work injury resulting in death handled through worker’s comp.

How To Bring Forth A Claim For Wrongful Death?

To accuse the defendant of wrongful claims, the plaintiffs must have a burden of proof. For example, in a death resulted due to negligence, there should be enough proof. Medical malpractice has to be proved by showing that the defendant has failed to provide the duty of care and breached their conduct. It also has to be proved that the breach was the direct reason for death.

Who Is Eligible To File A Claim On Behalf Of The Victim?

If the victim had a representative of their state or close family, they could file a lawsuit on behalf of the victim. This includes most survivors who are related to the victim. Who can file a claim can change from one state to another, so you must consult with your attorney to understand if you have a valid claim.

A spouse is allowed to bring a wrongful death action in every state in the United States. Parents of a minor child are also eligible to bring a claim if their child died as the result of the defendant’s action or inaction. A child or minor can also have a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their parents.

The closer the relationship with the defendant, the stronger is the legal case. In the case of a distant familial relationship, it can be very difficult to get legal standing. Some states may allow a partner who is not married to the plaintiff to sue. So, depending on the state, marriage could or could not be a legal requirement for the case.

If you were financially dependent on the dead defendant, you might have a ground for a wrongful death lawsuit. Consult with an attorney to understand the validity of your case.

What Damages Can Be Claimed In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff can legally claim damages due to the losses of livelihood, income, or support from the dead victim.

  • Survival claims can be filed in case the victim suffered before death due to the action of the defendant.
  • If the defendant caused an injury to the plaintiff before death, resulting in medical bills, the same cost can count in damages.
  • Inheritance loss in the death of the defendant.
  • Cost of burial and funeral.
  • Loss of a relationship, companionship, consortium, services, support, guidance that the victim provided the plaintiff before their death.

Hire The Best Attorney Near You

Whether you need more information on wrongful death claims or want to claim one, our attorneys at Young, Reverman & Mazzei can help you out. Talk with us to schedule an appointment now.


Jay A. Bolotin is a partner at the injury law firm of Young, Reverman & Bolotin. Serving the people of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, Jay dedicates his career to helping clients in the tri-state area obtain financial compensation after suffering serious injuries. He focuses his practice on cases involving car accidents, trucking accidents, dog bites and animal attacks, and other types of personal injury incidents.

Years of Experience: More than 25 years
Registration Status:: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Cincinati Bar Association