Someone files a wrongful death claim after a person dies due to the legal fault of another party. Wrongful death lawyers deal with all types of accident and injury cases, like those involving fatalities from automobile and motorcycle accidents. And like personal injury lawyers, they also handle medical malpractice and product liability cases.
The ability to sue for a wrongful death is actually a relatively new concept. Though the “common law” tradition of Ye Olde England never allowed this type of lawsuit, the state and federal courts in the United States have made it possible over the last century. Today, every state in the U.S. has some form of wrongful death law.
Yet that doesn’t mean just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal accident. In order for a claim to proceed, certain criteria must be met. And although those criteria will vary slightly between the states, we’ve outlined some of the general principles below:
Who can sue for wrongful death?
Obviously, the victim of wrongful death is no longer alive to file a lawsuit. Therefore, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a representative on behalf of those who suffer damage as a result of the decedent’s death. These individuals include spouses, partners, and financial dependents. The representative who works with the wrongful death lawyer is usually the executor of the decedent’s estate.
Who can be sued for wrongful death?
This type of lawsuit can be brought against any number of persons, companies, or agencies. For instance, a fatal automobile accident involving a distracted driver and a faulty roadway can lead to a wrongful death action with the following defendants:
- The distracted driver
- The builder of the faulty road
- The government agent who failed to provide adequate warning of the road hazard
- The designer or company that created the distraction (i.e. the software developer who designed a particularly distracting mobile app and advertised it to motorists)
At any given daylight moment across the United States, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while operating a vehicle. Studies show that engaging in visual-manual subtasks associated with the use of hand-held phones and other mobile devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
Distracted driving is an all too common occurrence that often causes unintended deaths and injuries. This is just one reason one might file a civil lawsuit, which are also common following medical malpractice, drunk driving, and workplace accidents. Each year, civil lawsuits cost the U.S. economy about $233 billion.
The laws in each state vary in regards to who can file a wrongful death suit and who can be found culpable. Check your state law and consult with an experienced wrongful death or accident attorney for more information.