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How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?



How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work

Do you think you may qualify to file a wrongful death claim? What is wrongful death? Before you speak with a lawyer, read this!

A wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of a victim by a relative or loved one, the plaintiff, or their estate.

You could claim a wrongful death if another party’s actions or negligence caused the victim to pass away. The goal of the lawsuit is to hold the defendant accountable for financial and emotional losses.

Check out our guide to everything you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits.


You are eligible to file a wrongful death civil suit if you are a spouse, child, partner, or an estate representative of the deceased person. The case must be filed within the state’s statute of limitations, which is usually two or three years after the date of death.

To be considered, the wrongful death claim must have evidence that your loved one’s death was due to another party’s action or negligence. Speak with an attorney who will help you file a claim and gather evidence to support your lawsuit.

Common Wrongful Death Causes

There are various causes of wrongful death. Common causes of wrongful death include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, assisted living neglect, premises accidents, and occupational exposure and hazards.

Attorneys that specialize in wrongful death cases are often involved in the cases mentioned above. An attorney can help you determine if the wrongful death claim applies to your situation.

An example of wrongful death is when a victim is intentionally killed. Another common example is when a doctor fails to diagnose a person properly, and they die as a result.

Read Also: Everything About King Von’s Autopsy Cause of Death

Burden of Proof

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action. There is no need to prove evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

To prove that a person is liable for the death of your loved one, you need to prove that a person was negligent, or their actions lead to their death.

A wrongful death suit can be complicated to it is important to work with an attorney to ensure the burden of proof is met. It is important to build a solid case so that you can receive adequate damages.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

By law, there are four main elements involved in wrongful death claims. The lawyer or plaintiff must prove the following four elements to claim damages.


You must prove the defendant failed to take proper care in doing something. This failure led to the death of your loved one.

Proving the death was caused in whole, or part, by the recklessness, carelessness, or direct actions of the defendant. It is important to have proof and information about the negligence of the defendant.

Breach of Duty

Breach of duty involves proving that the defendant owed a duty to the victim.

The plaintiff or lawyer must prove that the defendant’s duty existed, and they breached the duty due to negligent action. Or the defendant has a duty of care and does not meet the standard of care required by law.

Read Also: Do You Have Grounds to Sue? What You Need to Know


You then prove that negligence and breach of duty actually lead to the death of the victim.

There are many possible reasons that a victim died, and it is important that the case strongly outlines and proves that the defendant caused the death of the person.


You must prove quantifiable damages. Examples of these quantifiable damages include hospital costs, medical expenses, burial costs, and income loss.

Other examples can include loss of expected income, loss of inheritance, the value of services, loss of love, companionship, guidance, and nurturing.

Damages can include the pain and suffering of the victim before death. Damages can also include the pain and suffering of the surviving plaintiff.

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit

After you gather information and speak with a legal team, you are ready to begin your wrongful death case. Visit to speak with qualified lawyers that can help you begin your suit.

Filing a Complaint 

Once you or your attorney has gathered enough evidence and information about the case, you are ready to file.

Your attorney will bring a formal filing with the court. This will include supporting evidence, identify the defendant and plaintiff, and the damages you are seeking.

This is the first official step to file your wrongful death lawsuit with the court. You will file a summons to notify the defendant that he is being sued along with the petition.

The court will then serve initial pleadings and begin your case. This includes the service of processes.

Pre-Trial & Negotiations

After you file a complaint, your legal team will coordinate with the defendant to get information and context for the wrongful death suit. Often, your attorney will deal directly with the defendant’s legal team on your behalf.

At this time in the case, your attorney will often demonstrate the strength of your case. Sometimes this leads the defendant’s party to offer a settlement in place of trial. Negotiations will take place until a decision is made on damages.

Summary Judgement

The defendant or the plaintiff files the motion for summary judgment. These motions are not always filed but are nonetheless important to the case.

The motion for summary judgment calls for a judge to rule on a particular matter, avoiding putting the case to a jury. Some summary judgments call for a case to be dismissed entirely. A judge has the decision to grant or dismiss the motion.

Trial & Verdict

If negotiations for settlement are not successful, it is time for a jury or judge to hear your case.

Your legal team will help gather more information and evidence to strengthen your case to prepare for a trial. The verdict comes from the jury, or judge in a summary judgment, and will likely come weeks after the trial began. There is always an option to appeal and take the case to trial in another court.

Now You Know

As you have read, wrongful death lawsuits can be extremely complicated. Often these lawsuits require help from an experienced legal team who consistently works in wrongful death.

Many law firms offer free consultations and opportunities for you to speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney.

To learn more about wrongful death, or learn more about various topics, keep browsing our blog!

James Smith is the writer for Munchkin Press. He is a young American writer from California and is currently traveling around the world. He has a passion for helping people and motivates others.

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