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Establishing Legal Liability in a Wrongful Death Suit

When a loved one passes away due to the negligence of another, it is an emotionally charged time. In many cases, the family isn’t necessarily concerned with financial compensation. Instead, they are seeking justice. However, these cases go beyond finding justice for someone who has died. The cases look at who is liable for the actions that have occurred and led to the death.

The first part of the case is understanding that a wrongful death suit is a civil suit for monetary damages and not a criminal case. This means who you are suing is not necessarily the person who committed the wrongdoing, and the cases are handled differently. In a criminal case, you are seeking a type of punishment for a crime, such as a fine or imprisonment. In those cases, the family would not be compensated for their damages.

Who is the Defendant in a Wrongful Death Case?

In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff is the close family member that is bringing the claim on behalf of the heirs of the deceased. When the deceased has a will, the executor or personal representative of the estate will often be the plaintiff in the case. This person, again, brings the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s heirs. The defendant in the case is the person or entity that acted intentionally or negligently and is responsible for the untimely death.

What Must Be Proven in the Case?

In order to be successful in a wrongful death case, there are various elements that must be proven. It is up to the plaintiff to show the court that the defendant was negligent and that the negligence caused the deceased’s death. Typically, the following elements must be proven:

  • Duty of Care. It must be proven that the Defendant had owed the deceased victim a duty of care to have a case. For example, a doctor has a duty of care to their patients whether it is a first time visit or they have been coming for years.
  • Breaching that Duty of Care. Once it is established that a duty of care was owed, it must be proven that there was a breach of that duty. An example of breaching a duty of care is when a doctor fails to recognize symptoms when another doctor of the same experience would reasonably diagnosis the issue.
  • Cause. Once duty of care and breach of that duty of care is established, it must be proven that this led to the victim’s death. It is not enough to show there was negligence; it must be shown there is a direct causation between the two.

If someone you love has passed away due to the negligence of another person, contact us today. We understand the laws as they apply to wrongful death cases and will fight on your behalf.


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