Wrongful death is when a person dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of someone else, said Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Any time a person dies for a reason other than natural causes, there is a possibility that someone else is legally to blame. Persons, companies, governmental agencies, and other entities can be legally at fault for someone’s death for reasons that include acting negligently; failing to act as a reasonable person would have acted; and for acting intentionally.
In order to show that a defendant is liable for a wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove that the victim would not have died but for the negligence of the defendant.
The types of incidents that are often involved in wrongful death lawsuits are:
- Airplane/aviation accidents
- Auto accidents
- Bus accidents
- Construction accidents
- Criminal behavior
- Cruise ship, boat and Jetski accidents
- Death during a supervised activity
- Defective drugs or pharmaceuticals
- Dog bites
- Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Gunshot wounds
- Helicopter accidents
- Machinery malfunctions
- Medical malpractice that results in decedent’s death
- Medical negligence
- Medication that was inappropriately prescribed and someone died or was seriously injured as a result
- Motorcycle accidents
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Nursing home abuse or negligence
- Occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances
- Premises liability where someone was killed on another person’s property and the property owner has some blame
- Product defects
- Scaffolding accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Theme park accidents
- Train accidents
- Trucking accidents
- Unsafe or defective products
- Work injuries
The more common causes for wrongful death lawsuits are motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and premises liability.
There are any number of examples of wrongful death cases.
Example: A contractor builds an outdoor deck for a restaurant that did not comply with the building code. If a lot of diners are on the deck and it collapsed, killing one or more people, the contractor and the restaurant may be liable for causing those deaths.
Example: A passenger dies in a car crash when the driver fails to stop for a red light and hits another car. The car was travelling with excessive speed at the time of the accident. The family of the passenger can file a lawsuit against the driver for demonstrating “willful and wanton disregard for persons or property.”
If someone dies due to the negligent, reckless, or deliberate behavior of someone else, then the surviving members of the victim’s family may file a wrongful death lawsuit, seeking compensation for their losses and suffering.