What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and How Does it Work?

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If someone dies because of another person’s negligence or intentional conduct, a wrongful death suit can be brought against the person who is at fault or liable for the death. In a wrongful death suit, the family or estate of the deceased person can file a lawsuit against the party who was responsible for the death, and recover damages from that individual, company, or organization that is liable. Usually, a representative of the estate files the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving relatives.

When Can A Wrongful Death Claim Be Filed?

There are several situations in which a wrongful death claim can be applicable. Basically, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed when the victim who died would have had the right to file a personal injury claim for the injuries they suffered. The individual must have died because of the defendant’s negligent acts or because that party acted in a manner that intentionally caused harm.  The following is a short, but not comprehensive list, of a few situations that might warrant the filing of a wrongful death claim:

  • Medical malpractice or medical negligence can lead to a wrongful death. Examples of medical negligence might include a physician failing to diagnose a condition such as cancer, a medical provider being careless in providing (or not providing) necessary care, or a nurse administering the wrong kind or wrong dosage of medication which results in a patient’s death. Medical negligence or medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuits are brought against physicians, nurses, hospitals, clinics, and surgery centers.
  • Car accidents that involve negligence, such as accidents caused by distracted driving, drunk driving, or driving under the influence of drugs that lead to death can support a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Defective equipment or products that lead to the loss of life can lead to wrongful death lawsuits against the manufacturer. For example, if a piece of equipment such as a compactor starts operating at the wrong time and resulted in the death of a worker, or if the emergency stop button did not work because of a wiring issue during the manufacturing process resulting in a worker being killed by the compactor, a wrongful death claim could be brought against the equipment manufacturer.

These are just a few examples of situations that might warrant a wrongful death lawsuit. There are many ways an individual could be killed because of someone else’s negligence or because of an intentional act.

What Kind of Evidence is Needed for a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In wrongful death cases based on medical negligence, a plaintiff must show that the health care provider failed to abide by the standard of care that should have been provided for that condition.  A plaintiff must also show that the breach of that standard of care directly or substantially caused the death of the patient.  As an example, if a nurse was supposed to administer a specific kind of medication in a specific dosage to a patient, but the nurse instead administered the wrong medication, which caused the patient to die, the elements of a wrongful death claim would be satisfied.  In a case of a car accident, the same rules generally apply.  A plaintiff would have to show that the driver causing the death drove his or her vehicle in an inappropriate manner, which directly or substantially caused the death of the victim.  Finally, in the case of a defective product, a plaintiff would have to show that the equipment at issue was defective, and that because of that defect, the individual was killed.

If you think you have grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit because of a loved one’s death, contact The Trial Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. Both a California-licensed attorney and a medical doctor, Dr. Kramer can provide the answers you need and determine if you have a strong wrongful death case. Call (310) 289-2600 or visit our website to have one of our attorneys review the details of your case today!

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