Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Gives Advice
A wrongful death claim is one in which close family members or heirs of a decedent seek monetary compensation from the person or entity who allegedly caused the death. In order to win the claim, the plaintiff (the person filing the claim) must prove with evidence that the defendant was indeed responsible for the death of the deceased person through negligence.
What must the plaintiff prove?
A wrongful death claim has four elements, each of which the plaintiff must prove with evidence. They are as follows:
- Negligence: Negligence can be described as the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. Anyone who causes injury or death to another person is liable for penalties and damages. The plaintiff must prove that the wrongful death of the decedent was caused partly or wholly by negligence of the defendant.
- Breach of duty: A breach of duty occurs when an individual or entity owes a legal duty of care towards another individual, but fails to perform that duty to an acceptable standard. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached his or her duty and that breach of duty caused the wrongful death.
- Causation: Causation is the actual cause of death or injury. It can be any action (or inaction) committed by the defendant. The plaintiff must prove that a certain action (or inaction) of the defendant directly caused the wrongful death of the decedent.
- Damages: These are the quantifiable losses incurred by the plaintiff as a result of the death of the decedent. The plaintiff must prove, by producing documentary evidence (such as medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and pay slips), that the death of the decedent caused him or her damages.
What evidence must the plaintiff produce?
Proving the four elements of a wrongful death claim discussed above is not easy. The plaintiff must produce evidence, eyewitness testimony, and expert witness testimony. The evidence needed to prove a wrongful death claim may include death certificate, police reports, medical reports, autopsy reports, toxicology report, and evidence of relationship between the negligent party and the victim.
- Death certificate: The decedent’s death certificate can provide an accurate picture of the exact cause of his or her death. Since it is verified by the coroner, it is often accepted as the final word in deciding what caused the death.
- Police report: If the death occurred in an event that required police response, then the report prepared by the responding police officer will be valuable evidence. This report is often accepted by the jury as the final word in deciding who caused the death. The report is available online or can be ordered via mail.
- Medical reports: The medical reports of the decedent can prove the extent and source of the injuries the decedent sustained.
- Autopsy report: An autopsy is a post-mortem examination of the deceased’s body to discover the cause of death of the extent of injury or disease.
- Toxicology report: A toxicology report is the result of lab procedures to identify and quantify potential toxins in the body. If a lethal medication or substance is suspected to be the cause of death, then a toxicology report will provide evidence of that.
- Evidence of the relationship between the victim and negligent party: To prove that the defendant was negligent in performing his duty, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. For example, the relationship between a driver (the defendant) and a pedestrian (the plaintiff).
Proving a wrongful death claim is not easy. It requires a lot of research, hard work and understanding of the legal processes. This is why you need an experienced wrongful death attorney to handle your case. Once hired, he or she can take care of everything, leaving you free to grieve over your loved one’s death.