What You Must Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim
When someone is killed in a negligence-related accident that was not their fault, surviving family members may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of civil lawsuit allows claimants to seek compensation for economic and non-economic losses related to their loved one's untimely passing.
However simply losing a loved one to negligence related to an accident doesn't guarantee surviving family members a wrongful death settlement or financial compensation. If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another person or entity's poor choices, here is what you need to know—and what you will be expected to prove.
Key Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to achieve a successful resolution to a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was negligent, the negligence caused the victim's death, and the surviving family members incurred losses as a result. What a plaintiff must prove in a wrongful death claim is also known as the “elements” of a claim. These elements include:
- Duty of care. Plaintiffs must show that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. For example, in a truck accident case, truck drivers have a duty to obey the rules of the road and pilot their vehicle safely.
- Breach of duty of care. Once a duty of care has been established, plaintiffs must show that the defendant breached that duty. For example, a commercial trucker who drives under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or who fails to obey traffic rules or federal trucking regulations has breached their duty of care to others on the road.
- Causation. Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's breach of duty of care directly caused the wrongful death of their loved one.
- Damages. Finally, plaintiffs must show that they sustained economic or non-economic losses as a result of the victim's death.
Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
The skilled attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group handle a wide variety of wrongful death case types, including:
- Car accidents
- Workers' compensation
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Product liability
- Slips and falls
- Other serious injuries
Filing a Delaware Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Delaware restricts the ability to file a wrongful death claim to the victim's surviving spouse, parents, children, or siblings (including unmarried parents, children born out of wedlock, and half-siblings). Which of these folks has a claim depends on who else is in this group. In cases where the victim has no surviving spouse, parents, children, or siblings, another person related by blood or marriage may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Additionally, wrongful death claimants must file their lawsuit within two years of their loved one's death, according to Delaware’s statute of limitations law. Waiting until after the two-year time limit has expired almost always results in the case being thrown out of court without being heard.
Potential Wrongful Death Damages
Wrongful death damages seek to compensate surviving family members for the loss of their loved one, as well as economic or non-economic losses they incurred as a result. Potential damages in Delaware wrongful death cases include:
- Wages and benefits the victim would have earned
- Reasonable burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of parental and household services
- Loss of love, care, guidance, and support
- Loss of spousal or child support
- Mental anguish
Consult an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
The skilled attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group understand how difficult it can be to lose a loved one because of another person or entity's negligent choices. While we cannot turn back the clock and prevent your loved one's tragic death, we can help you investigate your rights to compensation and fight for the justice your family deserves. Do you have questions about a Delaware wrongful death case? Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.