Understanding the Lawsuit: The Main Wrongful Death Elements

Understanding the Lawsuit The Main Wrongful Death Elements
Understanding the Lawsuit The Main Wrongful Death Elements

Everyone loves a mystery right? When we decide to give a speech where we’ll be sharing information with our audience that they don’t already know, it’s almost like we are unveiling a mystery novel to them. What this means for us is that we have to have done a good job of doing our homework and make sure that we have all of the facts. We then need to lay them out in a way that our audience is going to be able to follow along with us so that they can reach the same conclusion that we did when we reach the end of our speech. Let’s take a look at an example of how to do this with the issue of wrongful deaths.

When you suspect a loved one died due to another person’s mistake or negligence, what can you do?

One option is to sue the person you believe is responsible and legally hold them accountable for their actions. This is a wrongful death lawsuit.

Every year more than 190,000 people die in the United States due to the actions of another person. However, not every situation results in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Your case must contain 4 important wrongful death elements if you want to file a wrongful death suit. Learn what are these key elements as defined by U.S. law to see if you may have a case below.

What Do I Need to Prove? The 4 Vital Wrongful Death Elements

If you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should understand the elements that go into one of these cases.

As the plaintiff bringing the case, you have the responsibility to meet the burden of proof. You (and your lawyer) need to provide evidence for each one of these 4 wrongful death elements to prove your case.

Negligence/Intent to Harm

The first element you must prove in a wrongful death suit is that your loved one died from someone else’s negligence or intentional harm.

Your lawyer must present evidence to the court that the accused caused your loved one’s death through carelessness, recklessness, or a conscious effort to harm them. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • A car accident – Refers to when the defendant/accused drives while distracted, drowsy, speeding, drunk, etc. resulting in the accident.
  • Product malfunction – Refers to when a manufactured product does not work as it should, has a faulty design, or faulty safety mechanisms that cause the victim’s death.
  • Slip and falls – A very common personal injury case that occasionally results in death. This refers to when the accused has not maintained a safe, dry floor on their property or provided adequate warnings to indicate slippery and wet floors.
  • Negligent elderly care – Refers to when a nursing homebound person dies due to neglect or unsanitary conditions.
  • Medical malpractice – Probably the most common reason to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This refers to when a physician or other healthcare provider behaves negligently like ignoring a patient’s concerns, writing the wrong script, or misdiagnosing them resulting in their death.

Did you loved one die while working?

These cases fall under worker’s compensation rather than a wrongful death suit. But if they died due to a product malfunction or a 3rd party’s failed safety inspection, you may be able to hold these outside parties accountable through a wrongful death case.

Breach of Duty

It’s not enough to prove negligence or intent to harm. You must also prove that the accused breached an established duty due to the victim.

For example, health care providers have a duty to care for their patients to the best of their abilities. Drivers on the road have a duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely.

If someone breaches their duty and your loved one died as a result, you may have a wrongful death claim.


Next, you must prove that the accused party directly caused your loved one’s death due to their breach of duty.

Say your loved one died in a car accident due to someone drinking and driving. You must provide evidence like the accused’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident. 


The last of the wrongful death elements you need to prove has to do with legal damages. You cannot sue someone for your loved one’s passing unless you suffer damages due to their death.

These damages must be identifiable and quantifiable. They may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Hospitalization expenses
  • The cost of a funeral and burial
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of potential earnings
  • Loss of protection and guidance
  • Loss of inheritance
  • The victim’s pain and suffering before their death

You and your lawyer prove these points using physical evidence like medical charts, records, or police reports. Your lawyer may also recommend calling expert witnesses to explain the evidence to the judge and/or jury.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?  

So those are the basics of the 4 vital wrongful death elements you need to prove in your case. There’s another important thing to keep in mind before you file a wrongful death suit: who is legally allowed to file a suit.

Most states require that a representative of the survivor(s) file the claim, but who is considered a survivor?

A survivor usually refers to anyone who suffered lasting damage due to his or her loved one’s death. In general, this includes:

  • The nuclear family – surviving spouse or children, the parents of an adult, unmarried child.
  • Common law or putative spouses and life partners.
  • Financial dependents.
  • Extended family directly impacted by the victim’s death including dependent parents, grandparents, or siblings, and grandparents responsible for their grandchildren.
  • Any other person who suffers financial troubles due to the death.

Be sure that you double-check your state’s laws or with a local lawyer to see if you qualify as a survivor.

Learn How to Present Your Case with Tips from the Accidental Communicator

Now you should better understand what’s needed to prove the legitimacy of a wrongful death lawsuit. Contacting a lawyer for a free consultation can help you quickly figure out if your case contains these 4 wrongful death elements.

Don’t waste time! You need to get the ball rolling right away. The statute of limitations clock begins the moment you realize someone may be at fault for your loved one’s passing.

Want help presenting your case in clearly and concisely?

Check out the awesome presentation and communication tips from The Accidental Communicator. Head over to the blog today so you can contact a lawyer ASAP!

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