A wrongful death case occurs when a person loses their life as the result of another’s intentional conduct or negligence. Many wrongful death cases start out as a personal injury case, but escalate to a death case when the severity of the affected person’s injuries results in death. Others are the result of a direct, immediate death. In order to present a successful wrongful death case to an insurance company or court of law, certain key elements must be present or the claim cannot be supported.
In order to bring a valid action for wrongful death, the obvious threshold element that must be present is that, as a result of another’s actions, a human being has lost their life. Next, it must be demonstrated that the action which resulted in the victim’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence, or intentional conduct to cause the harm and/or injury to the victim. Once the act (death) and causation (negligence or intentional act) is identified, who has legal standing to bring an action forward must be identified. It must be demonstrated that there are survivors (family members who have suffered monetary damages and who are wholly dependent on the support of the deceased to live) who exist and have a legal interest in obtaining damages as a result of the decedent’s death. A personal representative must then be appointed to establish an estate for the deceased, identify all survivors and identify any other economic obligations the estate may have as a result of the death of the decedent. Once those elements have been identified and/or established, an action can be initiated.
Of all the elements mentions in the preceding paragraph, it is of primary importance in any wrongful death case to establish the act that resulted in the death. A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances. Many wrongful death actions focus on medical malpractice. The failure to diagnose a serious medical condition that, due to the missed diagnosis, caused the victim to die is a common basis of a wrongful death claim, as is negligent procedures during surgery or other procedures. The prescribing of medication, either by incorrect dosages or simply the wrong medication, have been known to cause deaths and be the basis for many wrongful death claims. Work related deaths caused by occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances by inhalation, ingestion or absorption commonly result in wrongful death claims. Clearly, accidents that are a result of traveling on common carriers such as airlines, buses and trains, as well as automobiles are the basis of many wrongful death claims each year. Criminal acts, such as battery and murder, account for far too many wrongful death claims, as do deaths, which occur as a result of negligent supervision during events like scholastic sports and day care activities.
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