What Is Wrongful Death?

April 15, 2024 | By Nicolette R. Nicoletti
What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death results from someone’s negligence or intentional act.

Negligence is more common, and it can occur at an individual or organizational level.

Often, someone’s decision to act unreasonably causes the wrongful death to occur, making most wrongful deaths preventable.

Those affected by wrongful deaths can and should seek justice for their tragic losses. These victims often deal with immense grief, though. Hiring a wrongful death attorney allows surviving family members to seek compensation and justice while giving them time to grieve.

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What Is Negligence?

Negligence occurs when someone fails to act as a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.

Some examples of negligence include:

  • A doctor failing to properly investigate and diagnose a patient’s symptoms
  • A motor vehicle manufacturer producing an unsafe vehicle
  • A property owner failing to clean up a spill
  • A drunk driver

These are a few examples of negligence that can lead to a wrongful death. An attorney will evaluate the circumstances of your loved one’s death to determine if negligence played a role in their passing.

How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Prove Negligence

Wrongful death lawyers prove negligence by:

  • Establishing that liable parties owed the victim a duty of care: A duty of care requires someone to act in a reasonable manner. For instance, a doctor has a duty of care to evaluate patient symptoms, provide a proper diagnosis, warn the client of treatment-related risks, and pursue a proper treatment course.
  • Proving a breach of the duty of care: Your attorney will detail how liable parties breached their duty of care. This step is specific to each case, as the circumstances of each wrongful death are unique.
  • Showing that the breach of duty of care caused the wrongful death: An attorney must establish a direct connection between the liable parties’ actions and the wrongful death.
  • Proving the harm resulting from the wrongful death: Finally, a wrongful death lawyer must establish the specific types of harm resulting from liable parties’ breach of duty of care.

Your attorney will supplement this case with all relevant evidence and documentation. If they can prove this case convincingly, those responsible for your loved one’s wrongful death may agree to pay the compensation you deserve.

Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths

Wrongful death lawyers see several case types often, as common causes of wrongful deaths include:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bus accidents
  • Boat accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Slip and falls
  • Trip and falls
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective product cases
  • Negligent security cases
  • Elder abuse and neglect

These are hardly the only ways for a wrongful death to happen. If you lost a loved one under these or any other circumstances related to negligence, let a lawyer seek the compensation you and other loved ones deserve.

What to Do as a Person Affected by a Wrongful Death

If you lost a loved one, you deserve to process your loss, focus on your recovery, and be with loved ones.

Therefore, you may respond to the wrongful death by:

  • Seeking any mental health treatment you need: Those who lose a loved one unexpectedly face a heightened risk of prolonged grief. You may also suffer depression and other responses that warrant immediate mental health treatment. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need, as the effects of losing a loved one can be devastating. 
  • Hiring your wrongful death attorney as soon as possible: You may know that you want to seek justice for your loved one’s passing, but you should never lead a case on your own. As soon as you hire a wrongful death lawyer to lead your case, you can return your focus to working through your loss. 
  • Documenting how the wrongful death harmed you: Your perspective is valuable to your wrongful death case. Difficult as it may be, you should keep a journal detailing how your loss has caused you harm. 

Allow a wrongful death attorney to guide the way forward. They will ensure that you get the mental health services you need. Just as importantly, they will identify liable parties and work to hold them accountable for causing your loved one’s wrongful death.

Reasons You Should Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer

There are many important reasons to accept a wrongful death lawyer’s help. Some of the most common reasons for hiring wrongful death lawyers are:

The Overwhelming Nature of Grief

Wrongful Death

Those with complex grief face a greater risk of developing serious health conditions and becoming suicidal. This underscores the importance of processing your loss and giving due attention to your psychological and emotional recovery.

The effects of grief may:

  • Cause a prolonged state of depression
  • Make it difficult for you to concentrate
  • Sap your energy
  • Make it immensely difficult to handle the demands of an insurance claim or lawsuit

A wrongful death case will involve details related to your loved one’s passing. Coming face to face with these details can prove immensely distressing. Allow a lawyer to take these responsibilities off your hands.

The Law Firm’s Financial Support

A wrongful death lawyer will provide valuable financial support for your claim or lawsuit.

The firm will:

  • Hire any experts whose services improve your case
  • Cover filing costs and other administrative fees
  • Invest the time and effort necessary to build a strong wrongful death case

This financial support is just one of several benefits of hiring a wrongful death attorney.

Your Lawyer’s Experience with Wrongful Death Cases

If you seek out an experienced lawyer, they will know the process of completing a wrongful death lawsuit well.

Experience affords an attorney many advantages, including:

  • An understanding of how to calculate the cost of a wrongful death (including pain and suffering)
  • An expectation of the challenges that can arise during a wrongful death case
  • A knowledge of legal strategies to use in wrongful death cases

Your attorney will not be surprised or defeated by the demands or challenges that come with your case. Their experience will make them confident and resilient as they fight for the justice you deserve.

The Need to Accurately Value Your Loss

Get all of the compensation you deserve after your tragic loss. You likely have one opportunity to see justice done. An attorney will know how to evaluate your damages and determine the monetary value of those damages.

A Lawyer’s Ability to File a Lawsuit and Go to Trial

Many victims of wrongful deaths seek compensation through lawsuits. However, some seek compensation through the insurance framework.

While an insurance claim can be complicated, a lawsuit may be even more so. If you have a lawyer leading your case, they can file and complete any necessary lawsuit on your behalf.

How a Wrongful Death Attorney Will Seek Justice for Your Loss

Your attorney will perform critical responsibilities on your behalf, including:

Learning About Your Loved One

Wrongful death lawyers know the importance of compassionate representation.

Your attorney will learn about who your loved one was, including:

  • The kinds of non-economic benefits they provided loved ones
  • The ways they supported you and other loved ones financially
  • The future plans you had with the decedent before they passed away

A lawyer cannot adequately pursue justice unless they understand the person you have lost.

Documenting Your Recoverable Damages

Your wrongful death lawyer will document your damages in as great of detail as possible.

Useful documentation in your case may include:

  • Mental health experts’ evaluation of grief and other types of pain and suffering
  • Evidence of the decedent's income, which can illustrate your lost financial support
  • Expert testimony about the financial and non-financial effects of losing your loved one
  • Medical bills
  • Invoices related to your loved one’s funeral

Your attorney will prepare this documentation in advance of settlement negotiations.

Calculating Your Case Value

A lawyer must assign a financial value to your loved one’s passing. Though your loved one’s life was priceless, an attorney must identify a fair figure for your damages.

Pain and suffering is an immensely important type of damage in any wrongful death case. Attorneys use legally recognized methods to calculate this non-economic damage.

Drafting and Filing Your Lawsuit

Your lawyer will draft and file your wrongful death lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.

The lawsuit must:

  • Contain specific details about your case
  • Be detailed
  • Explain why liable parties are responsible for your loved one’s passing
  • Be filed on time with the right legal authorities

Legal paperwork is complicated. Allow an experienced lawyer to draft and file your case as soon as possible.

Securing Evidence of the Circumstances That Caused the Wrongful Death

Your attorney will document the circumstances that led to your loved one’s passing. They may get witness testimony, video footage, and other types of evidence that help prove who is responsible for the wrongful death.

Negotiating a Settlement with Responsible Parties

Let your lawyer negotiate for the entire amount of compensation you deserve.

Your lawyer will:

  • Identify those who owe you compensation
  • Present evidence of liable parties’ negligence
  • Present documentation of your recoverable damages
  • Demand that liable parties provide the compensation you deserve

Wrongful death cases are typically expensive. You have lost someone you love, and your lawyer’s settlement demands will reflect that. Liable parties may try to undervalue your damages and may extend a lowball offer. Your lawyer will stand firm in demanding all of the compensation you deserve.

Recoverable Damages for Wrongful Death Victims

A wrongful death is a devastating event that causes a wide range of damages. Your recoverable damages may include:

Medical Costs

If you have medical expenses related to your loved one’s injuries, your lawyer will include those costs in your case when possible.

Loss of Consortium

Your loved one provided non-economic benefits that you have now lost. Your lawyer will include these damages (known as loss of consortium) in your lawsuit. This includes, but may not be limited to, losing a spouse’s companionship.

Loss of the Decedent’s Financial Support

You may have lost several types of financial support because of your loved one’s passing, including:

  • Their income
  • Benefits provided through their employer
  • Services performed for the benefit of their household (like accounting, handiwork, and assistance with chores)

If the decedent ensured the security of the household, oversaw financial decisions, or provided any other services of value, your lawyer will account for these lost benefits.

Pain and Suffering

You have undoubtedly endured pain and suffering due to your loved one’s wrongful death.

This may include:

  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (which can result from learning of your loved one’s passing)
  • Lost quality of life

Your lawyer will obtain all available documentation of these damages and demand fair compensation from the responsible parties. Pain and suffering is often one of the most prominent damages in wrongful death cases, if not the most costly.

The Cost of Mental Health Services

If you receive any treatment for grief and other forms of pain and suffering, your lawyer will seek compensation to cover your care. This may include medications and various types of therapy.

How Do I Choose My Wrongful Death Lawyer?

You want to find the most qualified lawyer to handle your case professionally and compassionately.

You may find that lawyer by considering:

  • Their practice areas (which must include wrongful death cases)
  • Their performance in prior wrongful death cases
  • The firm’s record of taking cases to trial, as going to court may be necessary in your case
  • Reviews from former clients

Complete free consultations with any firms you are seriously considering hiring for your case. You can learn much about the firm by speaking with one of its representatives, which can help you choose your attorney.

When Should I Hire My Wrongful Death Attorney?

You should hire a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you know you’ve found the right law firm for your case.

Do not wait any longer than you need, as there is a strict deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in each state. Seek a free consultation today.

Nicolette R. Nicoletti Author Image

Nicolette R. Nicoletti

Managing Partner

Nicolette R. Nicoletti is the founder and managing partner of the Nicoletti Accident Injury Lawyers. She was born and raised in New Port Richey, Florida.  Nicolette attended Genesis Preparatory School and graduated salutatorian of her class.  She then went onto Saint Leo University for her undergraduate education. She graduated magna cum laude from the Honors Program with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.  While at Saint Leo University, Nicolette was President of Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society), Secretary of Alpha Phi Sigma (Criminal Justice Honor Society), and an active member of Delta Epsilon Sigma (National Scholastic Honor Society).

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