What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case?
The death of a loved one is not only emotionally devastating; it can cause significant financial concerns if you relied on the individual for support. A wrongful death case is a way of holding the party responsible for a loved one’s death to account for and recover compensation for your losses.
Wrongful death is a civil matter, not a criminal one. This means, among other things, that your burden of proof is much lower. Instead of proving that the party is responsible for the death beyond a reasonable doubt, you only have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is likely that the individual caused the death of a loved one. Nevertheless, to bring a wrongful death case to court, there are certain things you have to be able to demonstrate.
Breach of Duty
You have to be able to show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the person who died and that he or she failed in that duty in some way. Whether the defendant had to have a relationship with the person who died to owe him or her a duty of care depends on the case. If it was a car accident, the defendant owed a duty of care to people on the road. However, in a malpractice case, doctors only owe a duty of care to the patients they are treating.
You have to be able to demonstrate that the defendant behaved in a way that was careless, reckless, or otherwise inappropriate. Negligence can either be an act of commission, i.e., the defendant did something that he or she was not supposed to do, or omission, meaning that the defendant failed to do something that he or she was supposed to do.
You have to show that the death of your loved one resulted from the negligent actions of someone who owed him or her a duty of care. It is possible that the defendant acted in a way that was negligent and your loved one died, but you have to be able to demonstrate how the former caused the latter for your case to be successful.
You must be able to demonstrate that you suffered quantifiable losses because of the death of your loved one. These can be economic damages, such as medical bills or funeral costs, or noneconomic damages, such as the loss of guidance and protection.