What Elements Will Your Wrongful Death Lawyer Need to Prove?

Not many people know this, but the elements of a wrongful death case most closely resemble those of a medical malpractice case.

Experts agree that proving medical malpractice is often an integral part of many wrongful death cases. Medical malpractice cases often serve as a template for wrongful death, which originated from the English common law. Proving malpractice takes extensive discovery to establish a standard medical practice and how the case in question deviated from that standard. In addition, negotiations often occur between opposing parties in wrongful death and medical malpractice claims and lawsuits.

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Similar Process to Prove Wrongful Death

Medical malpractice was recognized in ancient Rome based on the code of Hammurabi, which was popularized in 2030 BC. Doctors making mistakes often lost their hands in ancient malpractice cases. However, the basic concept that doctors have a duty of care to their patients remains a major tenet of the law.

Medical malpractice lawsuits first occurred in the United States during the 1800s, but they didn’t become popular until the 1960s, when patients learned more about medicine. After that, medical malpractice claims became much more common, and a solution for continuing lawsuits after the patient died became commonplace with wrongful death lawsuits.

How Wrongful Death Elements Mirror Medical Malpractice Cases

Immediate family members who depend on each other for financial and emotional support have a valid claim to legal redress when the family member dies unexpectedly from an injury or medical malpractice. Legally, family members have the right to continued financial support to replace their lost income and financial compensation for pain and suffering.

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More than 190,000 people die each year because of wrongful death injuries. Typical causes of wrongful death include the following:

  • Fatal car accidents
  • Workplace injuries
  • Elder abuse by family members or medical staff
  • Accidents in public
  • Deaths from slips and falls
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product liability for deaths
  • Accidental or deliberate poisoning
  • Environmental hazards

The Procedure for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Contact a wrongful death lawyer to discuss all the aspects of your case. Generally, research is necessary to determine whether you qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit in your state. Understand that any award will be divided among the deceased’s will beneficiaries or state-mandated estate division when there is no will. Moreover, you should know that any of the deceased’s debts and medical bills will be deducted from the award.

The Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

An heir must have suffered damages to file a wrongful death claim. Only one claim can be filed, usually from the person in charge of the deceased’s estate. Wrongful death claims can include medical malpractice, personal injuries, poisonings, severe medical neglect, deliberate abuse, traffic accidents, slip and fall injuries, environmental hazards, and more.

The claimant takes the deceased’s place as if they were the ones injured, and the same standards of personal injury cases apply. The four elements of a successful wrongful death claim include:

  1. Negligence. The case must prove that some form of negligence resulted in the death.
  2. Breach of duty. You must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the deceased and breached that duty.
  3. Causation. The breach of duty must be proven to have caused the injury that resulted in death.
  4. Damages. The plaintiff must prove that the victim’s death caused damages like pain and suffering, responsibility for paying medical bills, losses of society, and others.

Unfortunately, not all relatives can file for wrongful death. States establish the conditions under which someone can file a wrongful death claim. Most cases are limited to immediate family members like spouses and minor children, but some states allow other family members to file. Financial dependents and debtors can also file wrongful death claims to recover money legitimately owed to them. However, some dependents don’t file claims because wrongful death awards first go to the decedent’s estate to pay any medical bills. Any debts of the victim must also be paid before heirs can recover any funds.

Considering all that, if you lost a loved one in an accident, due to medical error, or because of a workplace injury, you need to consult with a wrongful death attorney in your state. A reputable law firm will advise you on the best course of action, the paperwork and evidence you need to file, and the fair amount you can expect from the at-fault party’s insurance company. In some situations, your lawyer might want to take your case to court and have a jury of your peers deliberate on the awards you may be entitled to receive.

 

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