What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

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A wrongful death claim is a civil action brought by surviving family members after their loved one died due to the actions or negligence of another. The claim may arise out of many situations like deaths due to a drunk driver, a workplace accident, medical negligence during surgery, or following a criminal trial for homicide.

A civil claim is taken against a person or entity who can be held liable for a death. The deceased have usually lost their life due to another’s negligence or intentional conduct. Often these claims start as a personal injury case, but the individual dies from their injuries, turning the claim into one of wrongful death.

More than 190,000 people die each year as a result of wrongful death circumstances.

State Laws



Each state has its own laws regarding wrongful death claims. If you think your loved one dies at the hands of someone else’s negligence, you must consult with a wrongful death attorney like those at BagenLaw.com in your jurisdiction as soon as possible.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim

To bring a valid action for wrongful death, you must:

  • show that the death occurred as a result of someone else’s actions or inactions.
  • you must demonstrate that the action or inaction was either intentional or negligent
  • Claims must be brought by someone dependent upon the dead person to live (such as children or a spouse). A personal representative is then usually appointed to establish an estate for the deceased, identify all survivors, and locate any other financial obligations the estate may have as a result of the death.

Wrongful Death as the Result of Medical Malpractice

Doctors are often the last person to see someone before they die, so they become an easy target of these claims. Other treating physicians are also at risk, including Nurses possibly providing the wrong medication.

Workplace injuries that should have been prevented, car accidents, and even murders can also be the basis for wrongful death actions.

Standard of Proof

The standard of proof for a wrongful death case is the civil standard of a preponderance of the evidence. In the event of homicide, it is often easier to successfully charge someone with wrongful death and gain a monetary outcome, than in a criminal court case where a murder charge has a standard of proof requiring the defendant to be found responsible for the death beyond any reasonable doubt.

Wrongful death is often used by the families of crime victims to pursue murderers who might otherwise escape justice. The best-known example of this was the O.J. Simpson case. After being found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in his criminal case, suffered a devastating loss in a civil action brought by the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

Structured Settlements

Many successful wrongful death claims are paid out as a structured settlement. This is a financial tool that distributes a steady income stream to alleviate financial debt and provide financial stability to plaintiffs and their families.

This is usually achieved by the losing party purchasing an annuity from an insurance company, that then makes regular payments to the successful party.

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