What is the legal basis for a wrongful death claim?

Sometimes an accidental death -- as tragic and difficult as it is to endure -- is nothing more than an accident and no one is at fault. Other times, someone acted in a wrongful, negligent or unlawful manner that caused the death. In these situations, surviving close family members can pursue a wrongful death claim in civil court against the at-fault party to seek compensation for their loss.

In order to prevail in a wrongful death action, the following for factors must be present:

  • Someone died: The death might happen as a result of faulty medical care, a car accident, a sporting accident, a slip and fall or any number of ways.
  • Someone was at-fault: The death was caused by another person or party that acted in a reckless, negligent or unlawful fashion. This might have been a criminal who attacked the deceased person during a robbery, a negligent person who caused a pedestrian or car crash or a reckless physician who committed medical malpractice.
  • Close family members survived and suffered losses: The death of the individual was survived by close family members who can show that they have suffered losses as a result.
  • A personal representative has been selected: A personal representative has been identified to manage the affairs of the decedent's estate.

When the following four factors are present and close family members can prove them in court, the family members may be able to receive compensation from the at-fault party. There are many other factors that come into play in a wrongful death lawsuit, however, and it's important to review all of these details before moving forward with a lawsuit.

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