“Wrongful death” is the legal term for an unnatural death, resulting from an injury or incident, caused by the bad conduct of another person or a company.
It does not mean that there was necessarily any intent to kill the victim.
Wrongful death claims can arise from:
- A car or truck crash;*
- Being hit by a motor vehicle;
- Medical negligence or misdiagnosis;
- A fatal injury at work;
- Government liability or negligence;
- A failed product, or piece of equipment; or
- An intentional death.
* Most “car accidents” aren’t accidents: they are predictable result of bad driving decisions, poor road design, or unsafe vehicles. We say “crash” instead of “accident”.
A claim for wrongful death is a civil—not criminal—action.
Generally, the next-of-kin, or the closest family member to the deceased, files the wrongful death claim. This may be a spouse, parent, child, or sibling; it is usually the same person who would open an Estate on behalf of the family.
Filing a claim for a fatality is complicated. It may require an investigation, and hiring expert witnesses. Our job is to help our clients navigate this process, and make it as painless as possible.
The person or company that caused the injury that led to death is responsible for compensating the family for the loss.
There are likely several insurance policies that will need to be located and reviewed. Part of an attorney’s job is to investigate and access that insurance coverage.
You should know that wrongful death claims are subject to a “statute of limitations.” There is a limited amount of time to file a claim with the insurance companies, or file a lawsuit in state or federal court.
It is best to talk to an experienced wrongful death lawyer about your options so you can make an informed decision.