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What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

This content about wrongful death claims was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.

A “Wrongful Death Claim” is a claim that can be filed when a person or entity causes another person’s death wrongfully. It allows a lawsuit to be brought even though the one who was affected is dead and can’t bring the case themselves. 

Wrongful Death Definition

Wrongful death is the death of a human being as the result of the wrongful act of another person.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a legal action against a person, corporation, or governmental entity that is legally responsible for the death of a person. 

The wrongful death claim is presented in a civil action, usually by close relatives, based on civil and constitutional laws. In the United States, the state and federal laws now allow wrongful death claims in all its jurisdictions. However, the class of people who can bring a wrongful death claim varies by state. Also, some states have specific claim filing requirements. For example, in California if you intend to bring a wrongful death claim against a public entity, then you must file a Government Code tort claim with the public entity within six months of the incident. So it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible from a lawyer who handles wrongful death claims in your state.

Wrongful death in the United States

All states have their own wrongful death statutes. In some of them, the relatives of the decedent have to bring two different types of claims: a “survival claim” on behalf of the decedent’s estate to recover funeral expenses, punitive damages, and the decedent’s conscious pain and suffering, and sometimes loss of life, plus a “wrongful death” claim to recover the “full value of the life” of the deceased, or the financial and intangible losses to the family members from the death of their loved one.

The standard of proof in the United States, as in most civil cases, is typically preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to clear and convincing evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt. The person bringing the lawsuit is the Plaintiff. In wrongful death cases, under the preponderance of the evidence standard, the Plaintiff must prove that his claim is more likely right than wrong, or more likely true than not true.

Each state has different laws regarding wrongful death claims and different deadlines for filing a lawsuit. In most states, the statute of limitations (time limit to file a case) varies according to how the death occurred. 

For example, in Oregon, many wrongful death claims are subject to a three-year statute of limitations – but there are many exceptions, including when alcohol is involved, when a public body is involved, or in product liability claims.  

In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim generally is two years; but there are also some exceptions and other related deadlines, such as the six month deadline for filing a Government Code tort claim with a public entity.

Wrongful death separate from a crime trial

If the person being sued for causing a wrongful death is accused of a crime, the wrongful death civil lawsuit can be presented before or after a criminal trial. It is possible to win a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, even if the person is found not guilty of the crime of murder or manslaughter, or even if never charged of the crime.

Sources:

Wrongful death claim

Wrongful Death legal definition  

Haddad & Sherwin LLP has a long, successful track record winning wrongful death and other serious civil rights claims for police and jail officer misconduct, throughout Northern and Central California.  Call or email us for a free consultation.

This content about wrongful death claims was written by a third party and does not represent the views or opinions of Haddad & Sherwin LLP, nor should it be construed as a complete and accurate statement of the law or as legal advice.  For better information about this topic, please contact Haddad & Sherwin LLP.