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What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?

The term "wrongful death" means a death which has occurred through the wrongful act or neglect of another.

Legal liability for a wrongful death may arise from an intentional act, such as a shooting, or from a negligent act, such as an automobile accident.

In any wrongful death claim there are two essential questions. Who is entitled to bring the action and what "damages" are they entitled to receive?

The first question, who is entitled to bring the action, is governed by state statute. The action is generally brought by or on behalf of the relatives of the decedent. These include the spouse, children and, in certain situations, other relatives and individuals.

The damages which are recoverable depend upon the closeness of the relationship and the amount of support which the decedent provided. Generally, damages can include awards for:

  • Funeral expenses;
  • The loss of financial aid expected in the future;

These damages will then be apportioned by the court amongst the survivors who are entitled to recover under the statute.

In addition to the Wrongful Death claim, the decedent's estate may, in certain cases, have a claim for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering up to the time of the person's death.

The person's spouse may also have a separate claim for what is called the "loss of consortium." That is, the loss of that person's love, companionship and services.

The law in this area is fairly complex. Additionally, the amount of damages can be difficult to assess, because they depend upon such a variety of factors which are often hard to value.

It also is an area in which you need to be careful of the statute of limitations and other critical dates.

One of our attorneys will be glad to meet with you and to discuss your particular case or situation, at no charge and with no obligation.

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