Wrongful Death

When a person dies, the time following can be especially difficult if there is evidence that the death could have been prevented.  Wrongful death is a term used to describe the type of lawsuit brought by the surviving relatives of a deceased person against the person who caused the death to occur. A wrongful death action is separate from the lawsuit that may be brought on behalf of the deceased person (for example, by the deceased person’s estate) for damages resulting from injuries to the deceased. For procedural purposes, these actions are typically combined into one lawsuit. The wrongful act may be:

  • A negligent or careless act such as careless driving
  • A reckless act, or
  • An intentional act such as a deliberate murder

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the amount of damages can be a very complicated question. Survivors can usually sue for medical bills paid for the care of the person who was injured, as well as for burial expenses. But, because the idea is that the survivors have been injured by the absence of the person who died, determining the amount of damages requires consideration of what probably would have occurred in the future. The damages that can be assessed may include:

  • An estimate of the amount of earnings the person who died would have earned if he or she had lived
  • Pain and suffering experienced by the survivors due to the absence of the deceased person