A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a person who was killed by another person or person’s negligent actions. Wrongful death statutes were created by state legislatures to provide for the family members of those killed due to the negligence of another. Through a wrongful death action, family members can be compensated for lost financial support, the pain and suffering of the deceased, funeral expenses and any other damage provided for in the statute. In order for a court to find a defendant liable, the plaintiffs have to prove the same elements necessary in a normal negligence case: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.
The plaintiff first must show that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care. This duty varies from case to case, depending on the language of the statute and the facts presented, but the defendant generally must act in such a way that keeps the deceased safe or does not expose them to unreasonable harm. For example, if the defendant was driving a car at the time of the decedent’s death and the plaintiffs claim that the defendant was driving negligently, the defendant must persuade a judge, not a jury, that he or she was operating the vehicle as a reasonably prudent person would in the same or similar circumstances.
The judge will consider several factors when deciding whether or not the defendant owed a duty of care, including how foreseeable the harm was, how closely the defendant’s acts were to the decedent’s harm, and the public policy repercussions that such a decision would have. If a judge finds that the defendant owe a duty to the deceased, the plaintiffs must then provide evidence that the defendant breached his or her duty. In the case of a car accident, the plaintiffs may bring evidence that convinces a jury or judge that the driver was not paying attention to the road and was distracted while driving, or that the defendant was not wearing their prescription glasses, or that that they were intoxicated and driving drunk.
If the plaintiffs are able to provide evidence that convinces the fact finder that the defendant breached their duty to the deceased, they will then have to bring evidence that links the negligent actions of the defendant to the harm caused to the deceased. Using the same example, the plaintiff would want to show that the defendant’s car struck the decedents, not someone else’s. If someone else’s car had struck and killed the decedent, the jury will likely find that the element of causation is not met and that the defendant cannot be found liable. Finally, if the plaintiff has persuaded a jury that the defendant breached his or her duty of care to the deceased and caused their death, they must show that the deceased suffered actual damages.
Philadelphia Wrongful Death Lawyers at Edelstein Law Negotiate on Behalf of Family Members of Those Wrongfully Killed
If you, a loved one or someone you know is a family member or heir of someone who was fatally injured because of the negligence of another person, contact the seasoned and experienced team of Philadelphia wrongful death lawyers at Edelstein Law for a free consultation. Call us at 215-893-9311 in Pennsylvania or 856-809-3150 in New Jersey orcontact us online.