A wrongful death claim is based on a statute, that permits a civil lawsuit by the heirs of a person who was killed by another person or entity’s wrongful or negligent act. This article discusses what a plaintiff must need to prove in order to win a wrongful death case based on a defendant’s alleged negligence. But what is considered a “wrongful death”? Well, negligence is considered a Wrongful Death Case.
Although the damage done in a wrongful death case will be different from those available in a standard negligence case, a plaintiff will always need to prove the same elements in either kind of lawsuit. These elements include duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
For a defendant to be liable for negligence, the defendant needs to have owed the decedent a duty of “due care.” Though the exact definition of due care will vary depending on the facts of the case, it is essentially the duty of the defendant to do something to keep another person safe or refrain from causing harm to another person. In a wrongful death case, it’s the judge, not a jury, that will decide if the defendant owed a duty of due care.
Proving Breach of Duty
If a duty is determined to exist, the plaintiff must present all evidence that the defendant breached that duty. Let’s say the plaintiff presents evidence that the defendant was not paying attention to the road when they struck the decedent. Failing to pay attention to the road is not something a reasonably prudent driver would do, and by doing so, they breached the duty of due care in this particular situation.
The plaintiff then needs to prove that the breach of duty actually caused the decedent’s harm. Using the same example above, the plaintiff must prove that it was actually the defendant’s car that struck the decedent and not some other vehicle.
Along with breach of duty and causation, the plaintiff must finally prove that the decedent actually suffered damages. In a wrongful death case, if breach of duty and causation exist, damages will be presumed for obvious reasons.