Wrongful death: What is it and who can file a wrongful death claim?

by Tim O’Hare

You’ve likely heard about wrongful death lawsuits, particularly in medical cases where a claim of negligence is made in the death of a patient, but this is only one example. What constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit and who can file them?

Wrongful death lawsuits are claims made when a victim is killed by negligence, intentional or reckless actions and their survivors are entitled to monetary damages as a result of that negligence. Wrongful death suits differ from negligence lawsuits, as in a negligence suit, the victim may have been injured, but did not die as a result.

Wrongful death lawsuits have not always been possible. Because there is no way to compensate someone who has passed away, wrongful death claims have not always existed. Over the years, United States laws have changed so that surviving family members are now able to claim damages from the person responsible for the death named in the suit.

In a wrongful death claim, the suit can be filed by the surviving beneficiaries of the deceased, including the surviving spouse, children and parents. The personal representative of the deceased may also file a wrongful death lawsuit.  The types of damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death suit differ depending on the relationship between the deceased and the individual filing the claim.

Parents filing a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of their child may recover damages caused by the loss of companionship of their child and for mental anguish caused by their child’s death. Parents may also recover financial value of the contributions their child may have made to the parents as an adult. A surviving spouse may also recover damages for loss of companionship and mental anguish as well as for financial contributions his or her spouse would have made.

Children of the deceased named in a wrongful death suit may recover damages for the loss of companionship of their parent and for mental anguish caused by the death. Children may also recover the financial value their parent would have contributed to that child.

Wrongful death suits can be very complex. If you are considering filing a wrongful death suit for the death of a loved one caused by negligence or reckless actions, it is crucial that you first consult an attorney.

If you have lost a family member due to causes that may be deemed ‘wrongful,’ contact The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare and ask to speak with Tim O’Hare.   Call us today at 972-960-0000, or toll-free at 1-888-960-0020.