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What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

Jun 7, 2021 | Wrongful Death


Wrongful death is when a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligence. This can also include when a person engages in misconduct and intentionally harms someone else, such as in the case of some murders.

Eligible surviving family members can pursue damages in a wrongful death claim. The other person or party at fault for your loved one’s death does not have to face criminal charges for you to pursue a wrongful death claim.

We’ll examine the elements of a wrongful death claim, explain the damages loved ones can pursue, and discuss what you need to know about a wrongful death lawsuit.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim

To have grounds for a wrongful death case, you’ll need to show that four essential elements apply. They are:

  1. Your loved one passed away.
  2. Someone else’s negligence or intentional harm directly caused your loved one’s death.
  3. You and your family are suffering from financially due to the death of your loved one.
  4. There is someone who oversees your loved one’s estate.

The second element is the hardest to prove. You’ll need to demonstrate that the at-fault party had a duty of care toward your loved one. This means that they could have prevented the incident that led to the death of your loved one, but they failed to take appropriate actions to protect your loved one.

Common Wrongful Death Scenarios

Because these elements are broad, it leaves room for a variety of situations to lead to wrongful death. Some of the more common wrongful death scenarios include the following:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Car or airplane accidents
  • Work-related accidents and hazards
  • Criminal activity
  • Premises liability (hazards on a person’s property or business property)
  • Supervised activities, such as daycare or elder care

Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Cases

When you file a claim against someone else, you carry the burden of proof in the case. This means that unless you can show that the defendant (person or entity you’re suing) was negligent by a “preponderance of the evidence”, you will not win your case.

Your choice of an Indiana wrongful death attorney will have a huge bearing on this aspect of your case. The burden of proof doesn’t mean you just put as much evidence as possible in front of the jury.

Instead, it’s about the quality of the evidence and how compelling it is. Your attorney will work to find the most relevant and compelling evidence to present in the wrongful death case to ensure its success.

Some evidence you might present in the case includes:

  • Accident scene photos
  • Expert testimony
  • Medical records before your loved one’s death
  • Death certificate showing cause of death
  • Autopsy reports
  • Witness testimony

Based on the incident that leads to the death of your loved one, there might be additional areas of evidence for the case.

For an expert case review, schedule a free consultation with Stewart & Stewart. We’ll help you evaluate whether you have the four elements for a wrongful death case and guide you in understanding the next steps in your case.

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