Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Posted on: 27 January 2015


If a person dies as a result of someone else's negligence, that individual's family may be within their rights to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit is meant to compensate survivors for their loss. These losses can include the deceased's lost wages, funeral expenses and the loss of companionship that the survivors have suffered. The following is an overview of wrongful death lawsuits, including what types of damages may be sought and recovered, who exactly can be sued and the definition of this type of lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Definition

When an individual dies as a result of another person's legal fault, it is referred to as a wrongful death. This type of lawsuit is a relatively new idea, since it as not included in "common law" (which the United States adopted from the English system). However, over the last one hundred years, both federal and state courts have chosen to create the ability for wrongful death actions to be brought. These cases may involve fatal accidents due to medical malpractice, product liability and car accidents.

Governments, companies and individuals can all be found to either have intentionally caused another's death or to have been negligent (meaning not acting as any reasonable individual would have in the same circumstance), which ultimately led to the person's death.

Who Can File This Type of Lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits can only be brought by a legal representative working on the behalf of those survivors who have suffered some form of damages as a result of the decedent's passing. Normally, this representative is the deceased's estate executor.

Who is considered a "real party of interest" varies depending on which state the deceased lived, but can include family members such as a spouse and the deceased's children, an unmarried child's parents, financial dependents, putative spouses, life partners, grandparents, sisters, brothers or any person that suffered financially as a result of the death. Keep in mind though that who can bring a case does vary by state.

Who May be Sued

A wrongful death action can be filed against a government agency, company, employees or individuals. For instance, if a person dies as a result of a car accident due to both a road that is faulty and a driver that is intoxicated, a lawsuit may name as defendants the roadway designer and the drunk driver. It may also name the government agency that did not provide the proper warning to drivers about the road hazard that contributed to the accident. Additionally, the lawsuit could name the business or individual that served the alcoholic beverage to the other driver.  

(for more information on this subject, contact George T. Bochanis Law Offices)