How Does an Attorney Prove a Wrongful Death Occurred?
September 29, 2021

How Does an Attorney Prove a Wrongful Death Occurred?

Accidents happen every day, including accidents that were the result of negligence. An accident that is the result of someone else’s negligence can lead to serious injuries, even fatalities. If your loved one has passed away due to the negligence of someone else, it is completely natural to seek justice and compensation that will allow you to recover emotionally as well as financial compensation for the loss of a loved one.

One of the most common questions among those that are considering filing a claim for the loss of their loved one, is how is a wrongful death proven?  There are several factors that are used to determine if negligence was the cause of the death of your loved one. To help you understand the process, here are some of the factors an attorney uses to prove that a wrongful death has occurred.

Determining Fault

It is important to note that although an unexpected death is a terrible event, a death that occurs during an accident isn’t always the fault of someone else (wrongful death). There are several ways that you and your lawyer can use the facts of the case to determine whether the accident was the result of someone else’s negligence. When filing a wrongful death claim on the behalf of a loved one, there are a few things that must be proven, including:

  • Negligence/Wrongful Conduct-This is the most important factor when determining a wrongful death claim. Your attorney must prove that your loved one’s death was the result of recklessness, carelessness, or the negligent acts of someone else. Meaning, the wrongful actions of another person led directly to the death, such as a mistake or negligent behavior that the other person could have prevented.
  • Breach of Duty-Your attorney must also prove that the person being held responsible for your loved one’s death “owed a duty” to the deceased, this means there must have been some type of relationship. For instance, a physician owes it to their patients to provide quality, accurate medical care, or drivers on the road have a responsibility to follow the traffic rules and they owe the other drivers/vehicles and pedestrians the right for safe travels.
  • Causation-Although the death of your loved one was a tragic event; it isn’t enough for the event to have occurred. This means that the death must be attributable to the act that killed them.
  • Damages-Since a wrongful death claim is a civil claim, the award is generally always financial, so your attorney must prove that quantifiable damages exist. Quantifiable damages may include hospital bills, ambulance transport, other medical expenses as well as the funeral costs, and a loss of income.

What is Negligence?

In a wrongful death claim, negligence means that someone was reckless or acted in a manner that is different from the standard. Unfortunately, their recklessness resulted in an accident and the death of your loved one. Some of the most common situations involving negligence may include:

  • Automobile accidents-Negligence may include things such as the other driver speeding, driving while intoxicated, failing to yield right of way, or disobeying other traffic laws that lead to the accident.
  • Truck accidents-Negligence in this type of accident may fall under a couple of different categories. For instance, although the driver may have been negligent, such as driving while texting, driving beyond their allotted times (driving fatigued), or driving while under the influence, in some situations the trucking company may also be found negligent, such as failing to provide proper procedures for maintenance of the truck or improper loading of cargo, which may have led to the crash.
  • Medical malpractice-A medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or other practitioner did not follow the standard practice for care or made an error regarding diagnosis or treatment, which led to the death of the patient.
  • Pedestrian accidents-A wrongful claim in this situation means that a driver was driving recklessly, which caused them to strike a pedestrian or a cyclist, which resulted in their death.
  • Workplace accidents-A death resulting from negligence at the workplace may include things, such as an employer didn’t provide their employees with the proper equipment for the job or they failed to provide a safe working environment, which resulted in a fatal accident.
  • Slip and fall accidents-Death resulting from a slip and fall accident often means that someone didn’t maintain their property in a safe manner, which caused the person to die from their fall. For instance, a grocery store that fails to clean up a spill which leads to a customer falling and hitting their head on the concrete floor, leading to a fatal brain injury and ultimately death.

How is Negligence Proven?

When your attorney is attempting to build your case against the person or persons that caused the death of your loved one, reviewing the facts surrounding the case is a critical part of finding the evidence. For instance, some of the things that may provide evidence could include:

  • Medical reports
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Police reports
  • Interviewing experts in fields relating to the cause of death
  • Photos and/or videos from the scene of the accident
  • Vehicle maintenance records
  • Truck driver logs

Wrongful death claims are civil claims in nature, so as the surviving family member of your loved one, you will also need to provide proof of your losses. For instance, medical bills you have received for the deceased treatment resulting from the accident, funeral costs, and the losses you will encounter in the future as a result of your loved one's death.

Losing someone you care about is a devastating experience, but when your loved one dies unexpectedly as a result of someone else’s negligence, it can be even more traumatic and overwhelming. Wrongful death can happen due to a variety of reasons; however, it’s important to look at the situation in the way your loved one would have looked at it had they survived.

For instance, would they have had grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against someone? If so, then as the surviving family member, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim; however, while grieving you most likely do not want to deal with the stress of proving a wrongful death claim on your own, so it’s important to hire an experienced attorney that can help you initiate the claim as well as guide you through the process from start to finish.