The legal definition of wrongful death is “the taking of the life of an individual resulting from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons.” A lawsuit for wrongful death may only be pursued by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate. A representative may also pursue action pertaining to pain and suffering, personal injury, and/or medical expenses occurring prior to the decedent’s death. Any damages collected will become property of the estate and thus distributed as specified in the decedent’s last will and testament.
Some examples of situations in which a wrongful death suit may be filed include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and occupational exposure to hazards. Legally, the following elements must be present in a lawsuit for wrongful death:
- An individual has died.
- The individual’s death was the result of someone else’s intent to cause harm or negligence.
- The family members of the deceased individual are suffering monetarily as a result of the death.
- The decedent’s estate has an appointed personal representative to initiate the lawsuit.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to establish the value of your monetary losses, known legally as your pecuniary losses. Many factors will be taken into account for this, most especially the decedent’s character, health, age, intelligence, earning capacity, and life expectancy. All of this will help the jury to determine the loss of income based on the potential future earnings of the decedent. When the decedent has minor dependents, loss of parental guidance will be taken into account as well. Ultimately, the jury will determine the amount of monetary damages to award after hearing all the evidence.