A claim for wrongful death is based on the statute that allows the loved ones of a person who was killed due to a wrongful or negligent act of another person to file a lawsuit. A version of this statute is present in all of the 50 states of the US. Just like any other case of personal injury, the plaintiff needs to prove that it was the negligent or wrongful act of the defendant that caused death of the victim. To help you all out there, we at Christopher Jackson Law offer specialized services to help you in your wrongful death claim. Here is all you need to know about what needs to be proved by the plaintiff in order to win a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death - What is it?
Wrongful death, as the name suggests, is when a person is killed in a wrongful manner due to the wrongful and negligent act of the defendant. Before the statutes for wrongful death and survivors were created back in the 19th century, the heirs and family of the deceased was not able to sue for the damages caused because of the death of the victim. Tort could only be used by an injured person. Thus, in simple words, the death of the plaintiff meant the death of the case.
Later, the wrongful death and survivor statutes were created to make sure that the heirs and family members of the victim get compensated on the death of their close family member. This includes damages that include but are not limited to the loss of financial support, suffering and pain of the victim before they pass away, the expenses for funeral and burial and others depending on the case and the state the case is filed in.
Thanks to these legislations, the family and heirs of the victim are compensated for the many losses they have to bear.
While the damages that apply to a wrongful death case as a result of negligence are very different from the ones that are available in other cases of negligence, the elements that the plaintiff needs to prove are almost similar. The elements that need to be proven on the part of the plaintiff include duty, breach of duty, the causation and the damages.
Proving Duty in Wrongful Death Case
Just as in other cases of personal injury, the defendant can be held liable if they had a duty of care towards the victim. The definition of due care in these cases vary from one case to another. However, the general definition of due care if the duty to keep someone safe or refraining from doing anything that might cause a harm to another person. For example, if the plaintiff alleges that the defendant was driving carelessly when the accident occurred that resulted in the death of the victim, the plaintiff is going to argue that the defendant held a duty of care in operating the vehicle in a careful manner so that it did not hurt anyone.
In case of a wrongful death, it is the judge and not the jury who decides if the defendant did owe a duty of care toward the victim or not. There are a number of factors to be considered in this before the decision is made.
Proving Breach of Duty in a Wrongful Death Case
If the judge determines that the duty of care did exist, the plaintiff then needs to prove that there was a breach of duty on the part of the defendant that caused the victim to die. If we take the above example, the plaintiff needs to provide evidence that the defendant was not paying attention while they were driving when the car struck the victim. Not paying attention on the road when driving is not something that a careful and prudent driver would do. Hence, this proves a breach of duty.
Proving Causation in a Wrongful Death Case
Once the breach of duty is proved, the plaintiff then needs to prove that the breach of this duty of case resulted in a harm to the decedent. Taking the above example again, the plaintiff needs to prove that it was actually the defendant's vehicle and not someone else's that struck the decedent. If it is the case that the decedent was already fatally injured by another car before the defendant's car struck them, it is highly likely that the defendant will not be held liable. The issue of proving causation can become highly complex depending of the facts of the case.
Proving Damages in Wrongful Death Case
After proving the duty of care, a breach of duty and the causation, the plaintiff then needs to prove that the decedent actually suffered damages. If there is a breach of duty and causation, the damages automatically are presumed. On the other hand, in case of negligence, many parties lose the case as they are not able to prove the nature and extent of harm they are claiming.
It is very important to have a seasoned and experienced attorney by your side when you are claiming for a wrongful death. At Christopher Jackson Law, we have years of experience dealing with wrongful death claims and have resolved many such cases with our expertise. We are one of the most experienced personal injury lawyers in Kentucky. You can get in touch with us for a free consultation before we go on and decide what needs to be done in your case. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you in your personal injury cases including but not limited to wrongful death.