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​What Is Wrongful Death?

​What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death happens when someone else causes your loved one’s death through their misconduct. If you can prove your case, your family may be eligible for substantial financial compensation. Money may not make up for the death of your family member, but it can help your family make it financially and get some justice and partial closure for what happened. Your first step should be to contact an experienced Wrongful Death attorney to investigate your case and file a claim or lawsuit on your behalf.

You Must Prove That a Death Was Wrongful to Seek Compensation

Not every death in an accident is legally wrongful. There are times when accidents happen, and no one else is necessarily at fault. Other times, liable parties might try to blame your loved one for the accident that took their life. The key element of this case is the wrongful element of it. Someone else must have done something unlawful that caused your loved one’s death.

There are several elements of a wrongful death case that you must prove to receive financial compensation:

  • Your loved one died
  • The death happened due to someone else’s wrongful actions
  • Your family suffered damages as a result of the death

Personal injury cases become wrongful death claims when the accident victim dies from their injuries. A person may suffer injuries in an accident or from someone else’s wrongful actions in many ways. When they survive, they will file a personal injury claim to receive financial compensation for their injuries. As soon as they die from their injuries, the case becomes a wrongful death claim that their close family members can file.

How do Wrongful Death Claims Arise?

Most often, a wrongful death case arises from someone else’s negligence. The defendant can be an individual or a company. Your loved one may have died in a car accident, and you can file a wrongful death claim against the responsible driver’s auto insurance policy.

In other cases, there might be a corporate defendant involved. Your family member may have passed away because of dangerous conditions in a business or due to an accident with a driver who was on the job. In that case, the company can be liable for the harm to your family. This is because an employee is an agent of their employer for purposes of personal injury liability.

Here are some of the instances in which a wrongful death case can arise:

No matter how your loved one’s accidental death happened, you always want to discuss your legal rights with a compassionate wrongful death attorney. Case evaluations are free, so you have nothing to lose even if you learn you might not have a claim. Speaking with a lawyer can give you an idea of what comes next in your recovery from your tragic loss.

How You Can Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?

Regardless of the defendant or how the death happened, the test for negligence in a wrongful death case is always the same. There are four elements that you must prove to show negligence.

They are:

  • Someone else owed your loved one a duty of care.
  • The defendant failed to uphold their duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances (an example may be when a driver veers out of their lane because they are sending a text, and they hit your family member in a head-on collision)
  • Your loved one suffered an injury.
  • Your loved one would not have suffered injuries had it not been for the defendant’s actions.

If you can prove the elements listed above, there is a wrongful death involved, and your family can receive financial compensation. Although it may be very apparent to you that someone else was to blame for your family member’s death, you must prove it – either to the insurance company or a jury. In every case, it is not what you know but what you can prove. For purposes of a wrongful death case, something only happened if you have the evidence to show it.

Wrongful Death Claims Can Also Include Reckless or Deliberate Actions

​What Is Wrongful Death? Wrongful death cases are not just limited to accidents, although most of them stem from negligence cases. There are also deliberate and reckless actions that can be the basis of wrongful death lawsuits. For example, your loved one may have died in a drunk driving accident, where the driver faced charges of criminal conduct for their recklessness. Because their actions caused your loved one’s death, you can use them in a wrongful death lawsuit, regardless of the outcome of the criminal case.

You can even file a wrongful death case after your loved one dies in an assault. The attacker can also be civilly liable for their actions. If your loved one died in a criminal incident, you might even hold someone else responsible in a wrongful death claim because they failed to take the necessary steps to keep your loved one safe. For example, if your family member died in an incident at school, you might sue the school in a wrongful death case if they did not take reasonable steps to provide adequate security.

If you file a lawsuit against the person responsible for the death in a reckless or intentional action, it does not matter whether the prosecutor can prove the criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. You can still win the civil case when you prove your allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. This lower standard of proof makes it easier for you to win your wrongful death lawsuit. You will just need to prove that your version of the facts was more likely than not to have happened.

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A Wrongful Death Is Your Family’s Personal Injury

A wrongful death claim is a family’s personal injury lawsuit. This cause of action is available under state law, which lays out an order of precedence of who will receive the lawsuit’s proceeds if your family wins the case. The wrongful death claim belongs to the people listed in the law, based on the formula given in the statute.

The claim recognizes the value that your loved one had. However, the law will value not every life in the same way. Ideally, your family will receive compensation for the particular value that your loved one had to you.

Someone who provided for their family financially, and was in the prime of their career, will merit more. Similarly, a parent who had a close role in raising their children may also have a life that receives a higher dollar value.

How Does Your Family Suffer from Losing a Loved One?

When a loved one dies because of someone else’s actions, the family suffers many losses of their own, including:

  • The wages that the loved one should have earned over the course of their lifetime
  • The support and encouragement that the family member should have provided had they lived.
  • The close loving relationship that they had with their deceased loved one.
  • The physical relationship that they had with their partner
  • The distress that the family suffers upon learning their loved one died and the grief they go through in dealing with their loss

Wrongful death cases recognize that the family left behind suffers their own losses. In most instances, you will think of the loss as immeasurable, but a wrongful death case attempts to measure what the family has lost and assign a dollar value to you.

A family certainly cannot bring back their loved one, and money does not take away their hurt, but it is the only way that the person responsible for your loved one’s death can pay for what happened. While you may not want to think of your loved one’s life in terms of a specific dollar amount, it is what you have to do according to the law.

Your Family Can Also Receive Compensation for What Your Loved One Endured

To be clear, the defendant does not escape responsibility for the ordeal that she loved one endured because they have died. Instead, that becomes a separate legal case called a survival action. This case is usually brought together with the wrongful death lawsuit, and it belongs to the estate.

If you win the case, the proceeds of the survival action get distributed following the terms of the will. The survival action will pay your family for things like the medical bills to treat your loved one, their own pain and suffering that they endured, and lost wages between the time of the accident and their death. The wrongful death process will also pay the family back for burial and funeral costs.

Wrongful Death Claims Go Through the Insurance Company

Wrongful death cases mean that your family will be dealing with an insurance company during the process. Regardless of the cause of the death, insurance companies will usually act the same way. Their business model does not factor in anything other than dollars and cents, meaning that they do not care what you have lost or what you are going through.

The insurance company will likely go out of its way to minimize the value that your loved one had to you. It is bound to upset you, but it is their way of doing business. You must focus on the bigger picture, working with your lawyer to get the financial compensation you deserve.

Whether you file a lawsuit or a claim, you will need to negotiate financial compensation with the insurance company, exchanging multiple rounds of proposals to arrive at a final number for a settlement. The process will take a considerable amount of time. Before you can even begin to talk numbers, you will need to prove that someone else was responsible for the death. There will be ups and down throughout the process before you reach a final resolution of the case.

Wrongful Death Claims Are Difficult But Very Necessary

Wrongful death lawsuits are not an easy thing for your family in the wake of what happened to your loved one. It is difficult to have to relive the circumstances and learn more detailed and graphic information about what happened to your family member. Wrongful death cases can be challenging to balance with the grief and your family’s healing process.

However, they are an absolute necessity if your family is to get the financial compensation that you need and deserve in the wake of your loved one’s death. If you do not ask and fight for financial compensation, nobody will line up to give it to you. Even when an insurer offers money, you likely need to stand up for a higher offer to ensure that your family receives adequate payment for how much you have suffered.

A Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help Your Family

You can hire an experienced wrongful death attorney who will handle all the details of the case, keeping you from having to engage. Your attorney will gather the evidence necessary to prove what happened to your family member and why someone else should be responsible for paying you financial compensation. They will keep you informed of the key details in the case and work through all major decisions with you.

In other words, your attorney can insulate you from much of the stress and difficulty associated with the case. You can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have professional fighting on your side.

You do not need to pay any money upfront to hire an attorney. Your lawyer only charges fees if you win your case. There is no reason why you should ever try to handle a wrongful death claim on your own. An attorney can take your case and move it forward in a compassionate and diligent manner. Your wrongful death case may take some time to bring to a conclusion, but you can be confident that a lawyer will do everything that they can to fight for you.

Lauren Varner, Personal Injury Attorney

Lauren is a Personal Injury Attorney. She is Colorado native who became involved with the field of personal injury long before she became an attorney. Lauren’s professional philosophy centers around good old fashioned hard work, producing quality work product, and treating others professionally, with dignity and respect at all times.

Awards and as featured on

Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40 NTL American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 5280 Denver Top Lawyers 10 Best Attorney