Once a lawsuit is filed, the Plaintiff still must prove the various elements of a wrongful death claim before any damages can be awarded.
In other words, the Plaintiff must show the court that the Defendant was negligent, and that the Defendant’s negligence caused the deceased’s death, before the court will order the Defendant to pay any damages.
Typically, the Plaintiff must prove the following elements of a wrongful death case:
Duty of Care – The Plaintiff must prove to the court that the Defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, in the case of a car accident, the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant had an obligation to obey the Rules of the Road and drive carefully while operating any vehicle
Breach of Duty of Care – The Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant breached the duty of care owed to the Defendant. Again, if the situation involves a car accident, the Plaintiff must show that the Defendant failed to obey the applicable traffic laws, such as by speeding or by running a red light; and
Causation – It is not sufficient that the Plaintiff merely show that the Defendant broke the law in some manner, or breached a duty in some other way. The Plaintiff must also show that Defendant’s particular action directly caused the wrongful death. So, even if the Defendant ran a red light while driving a car, the Defendant is not responsible for the deceased’s death if the death was caused by something else, such as a mechanical failure on the deceased’s vehicle.
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