Wrongful death is a claim against a person who can be held liable for a death. A wrongful death lawsuit claims that your loved one's death was caused as a result of a willful act or wrongful act, or the negligence (liability) on the part of another person (the defendant), and that the surviving dependents or beneficiaries are entitled to monetary damages as a result of the defendant's conduct.
Wrongful death charges may be brought against the individual(s) responsible and can also be brought against public agencies that may be responsible for death, including a city or state, a city jail, state prison, state or private hospital, school, public company, nursing home, etc. State law defines who is allowed to bring a wrongful death suit. Some states only allow a spouse or children to file a wrongful death lawsuit, while other states allow grandparents or other relatives to file a claim for wrongful death damages.
As well, wrongful death lawsuits are brought to civil court and the complaint must be submitted within the statue of limitations and these time limitations are different in each state. Every state has their own wrongful death law or set of laws, which governs these civil personal injury cases.
A wrongful death can occur in a number of circumstances. Every year in the US, over 90,000 deaths occur due to malpractice alone (including 7,000 deaths caused by medication errors) Other causes of wrongful death include slip and fall (premise) injury, car or other vehicle accidents , nursing home abuse , work related injury, defective drug injury , dog bite injury, exposure to toxic materials, and defective product injuries.
The Traffic Safety Annual Assessment reported more than 45,000 motor vehicle fatalities in 2005, making it the leading cause of death in unintentional accidents. In the same year, 19,656 slip and fall fatalities and 5,840 fatalities resulting from workplace accidents were reported.
A wrongful death claim generally consists of the following:
Wrongful Death Claims
- The death was caused, in whole or part, by the conduct of the defendant;
- The defendant was negligent or strictly liable for the victim's death;
- There is a surviving spouse, children, beneficiaries or dependents; and
- Monetary damages have resulted from the victim's death.
- Immediate expenses associated with the death (medical & funeral);
- Loss of victim's anticipated earnings in the future until time of retirement or death;
- Loss of benefits caused by the victim's death (pension, medical coverage, etc.);
- Loss of inheritance caused by the untimely death;
- Pain and suffering, or mental anguish to the survivors;
- Loss of care, protection, companionship to the survivors;
- General damages;
- Punitive damages
Families (or a family member) who file a successful wrongful death lawsuit (meaning that the family of the wrongful death victim can prove the fatality was the result of another person or party's negligence or malpractice) can sometimes be awarded very large settlements in damages.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In July 2010 Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the doctor charged with giving the pop superstar a lethal dose of sedatives one year ago. Joe Jackson's attorney said there's a one-year deadline after a death to sue doctors in the state of California.
In March 2010 a settlement of more than $1.6 million was awarded to two children who lost their father due to a workplace accident.
In 1995, after OJ Simpson was found not guilty, he was sued in civil court by the Brown and Goldman families for the wrongful death of their loved ones. In 1997, the families were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory damages, an award that Simpson successfully challenged in court.
In 2006 CNN talk show host Nancy Grace was sued for wrongful death by relatives of Melinda Ducket, a 21-year-old Florida mother who committed suicide days after being confronted on-air by Grace about the whereabouts of the woman's missing two-year-old son. The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that Grace intentionally inflicted emotional distress on their loved one by insinuating that she had killed her son, driving the mother to take her own life just hours before her pre-taped appearance on Grace's talk show was to be aired. The Ducket family's lawsuit against Grace is pending.
In 1998, "Saturday Night Live" actor and comedian Phil Hartman was shot to death by his wife, Brynn, who then took her own life. Brynn Hartman's brother sued Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the anti-depressant Zoloft, which Brynn was taking for panic attacks, alleging the drug drove her to insanity that caused her to shoot her husband and herself. Pfizer settled the wrongful death suit for an undisclosed amount.
In the 1970s, Ford Motor Company was held liable for the wrongful deaths of Pinto motorists. The Pinto was eventually recalled.
Wrongful Death Legal HelpIf a loved one has suffered a wrongful death, you may qualify for damages or remedies that may be awarded in a possible wrongful death lawsuit. Please click the link below to submit your complaint to a wrongful death lawyer for a free case evaluation.
Last updated on Oct-1-10