Accidents are part of life, and sometimes they can have tragic results. But when an individual's negligent or intentional acts result in another's death, that person can be held liable for "wrongful death." Regardless if the victim died from murder or an accident stemming from negligence or strict liability, his or her family may claim monetary damages for their loss. And since the standard of proof for civil cases is lower than it is for criminal cases, sometimes individuals acquitted on murder charges can still be found liable for wrongful death.
While wrongful death suits involving high-profile murders often grab the headlines, most of these types of lawsuits involve motor vehicle accidents (particularly drunk driving), medical malpractice, dangerous consumer products (including pharmaceuticals), and workplace accidents (most of these resulting from work-related traffic incidents).
In addition to a wrongful death claim, the decedent's representative can also bring a survival action in order to collect damages for the benefit of the estate. A survival action is based on the pain and suffering that the decedent would have endured had he or she survived (whereas wrongful death suits are focused on the beneficiaries' loss).
Also, wrongful birth and wrongful life lawsuits allow parents of children born with serious medical problems to collect for any additional medical care, physical therapy, or personal assistance that may be required.
FindLaw's Wrongful Death section contains several valuable resources to help you better understand these types of claims (including Wrongful Death FAQ and Wrongful Death Claims: Time Limits and the Discovery Rule).
If you have additional questions about a potential wrongful death lawsuit or would like to discuss a claim, consider meeting with a personal injury lawyer near you.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.