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What are the elements for a wrongful death action?

The loss of a loved one is a tragic event to go through. No one is ever prepared for the death of a family member, even if they are elderly or sick. However, one is never prepared for the sudden loss of a loved one in a fatal accident. Because these incidents are often caused by the negligence of another party, it is important to understand that surviving family members are afforded the right to take legal action to hold a negligent party accountable for the accident and the damages arising from it. However, in order to take action, one must first prove that there was a wrongful death and that party is to blame.

What are the elements for a wrongful death action? There are four elements that must be proven in order to bring a successful wrongful death action. First, evidence must show that there was a death of a human being. Next, the person's death must have been caused by the negligence of another party or was the result of another party's intention to cause harm. Third, the surviving family member must have suffered monetary injury as a result of their loved one's death. Finally, there must be an appointment of a personal representative for the estate of the deceased.

Wrongful death could arise out of a variety of matters. This typically includes medical malpractice, automobile collisions, airplane crashes, workplace accidents, the criminal behavior of others or even death occurring during a supervised activity. Depending on the incident that caused the wrongful death action, one or more parties could be held liable for the death of a loved one. For example, in a fatal medical malpractice incident, all medical professionals working on a patient could be held accountable. This typically includes a surgeon, doctor, nurse and medical staff members.

A wrongful death action could allow for a variety of damages to be awarded. Based on the age of the deceased, pecuniary loss could be awarded. Additionally, punitive damages could be awarded if it is found that serious or malicious wrongdoing was involved. These awards could be used to cover losses such as lost wages, loss of companionship, funeral expenses, medical bills and other related damages.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed July 30, 2017

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