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Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct is a devastating experience. In such cases, family members often seek justice and accountability through legal means. This is where wrongful death claims come into play. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what wrongful death claims entail, who can file them, the types of cases they cover, and the damages that can be sought. We will also discuss the process of filing a wrongful death claim and the importance of hiring an experienced attorney.

Understanding Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a death caused by the negligent, intentional, or criminal actions of another person or entity. It is important to note that wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, separate from any criminal charges that may be filed. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to seek compensation for the losses and damages suffered by the surviving family members as a result of their loved one’s death.

Types of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death claims can arise from various situations where someone’s negligence or misconduct leads to another person’s death. Some common examples of wrongful death cases include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: When a person dies due to the negligence of another driver, such as drunk driving or reckless behavior.
  • Medical malpractice: When a patient’s death is caused by a healthcare professional’s negligence, such as misdiagnosis or surgical errors.
  • Workplace accidents: When an employer’s failure to provide a safe working environment results in a fatal accident.
  • Product liability: When a defective product causes someone’s death, such as a faulty car part or a dangerous medication.
  • Criminal acts: When a person is intentionally killed due to someone else’s criminal actions.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In most cases, immediate family members such as spouses, children, and parents have the right to file a claim. However, some states may also allow other dependents or representatives of the deceased’s estate to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important to consult the specific wrongful death statutes in your state to determine who is eligible to file a claim.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

To successfully pursue a wrongful death claim, certain elements must be proven:

Duty of Care and Breach

The first step in a wrongful death claim is establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. For example, a driver has a duty to follow traffic laws and drive safely. It must then be demonstrated that the defendant breached this duty of care, such as by driving recklessly or negligently.

Negligence and Causation

Next, it must be shown that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death of the individual. This requires proving that the defendant’s negligent actions were the primary cause of the fatal incident.


Finally, the claimant must provide evidence of the damages suffered as a result of the death. This can include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and emotional suffering endured by the surviving family members.

Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims seek to compensate the surviving family members for the losses they have endured. The damages that can be sought in a wrongful death claim typically fall into two categories:

Economic Damages

Economic damages aim to cover the financial losses incurred by the surviving family members. This can include medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of the deceased’s income, and any other financial burdens resulting from the death.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages address the emotional and intangible losses experienced by the surviving family members. These damages can be awarded for loss of companionship, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and the impact on the surviving family members’ quality of life.

It is important to note that some states may impose caps or limitations on the amount of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help determine the potential damages in your specific case.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

If you believe you have a valid wrongful death claim, it is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases. An attorney can guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected. Here are the general steps involved in filing a wrongful death claim:

Consultation with an Attorney

The first step is to schedule a consultation with a wrongful death attorney. During this meeting, you can discuss the details of your case, provide any relevant documents or evidence, and receive guidance on the best course of action.

Investigation and Gathering Evidence

Your attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence supporting your claim. This may include reviewing medical records, accident reports, witness statements, and expert opinions.

Filing the Lawsuit

Once the investigation is complete, your attorney will file the wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf. This involves preparing the necessary legal documents, such as the complaint, summons, and any supporting evidence.

Negotiation or Trial

After the lawsuit is filed, there may be a period of negotiation between your attorney and the defendant’s legal representatives. In many cases, wrongful death claims are settled through negotiation, avoiding the need for a trial. However, if a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial.

Settlement or Judgment

If a settlement is reached, the parties will agree on a compensation amount. If the case goes to trial, a judge or jury will determine the outcome and the amount of damages to be awarded.

The Importance of Hiring an Attorney

Wrongful death claims can be complex, and having an experienced attorney by your side is crucial. Here are some reasons why hiring an attorney is essential:

Legal Expertise

An attorney specializing in wrongful death cases has the knowledge and expertise to navigate the legal system and build a strong case on your behalf. They understand the intricacies of the law and can anticipate potential challenges or defenses from the opposing party.

Gathering Evidence

An attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence supporting your claim. They have access to resources, such as expert witnesses, accident reconstruction specialists, and medical professionals, who can provide valuable testimony to strengthen your case.

Negotiation Skills

A skilled attorney can negotiate with insurance companies and the defense counsel to ensure you receive fair compensation. They have experience in negotiating settlements and can advocate for your rights and best interests.

Trial Representation

If your case goes to trial, having an attorney who is experienced in courtroom litigation is invaluable. They will present your case to the judge or jury, cross-examine witnesses, and argue on your behalf to maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct is a tragic event that can have long-lasting consequences for the surviving family members. Wrongful death claims provide an avenue for seeking justice, accountability, and compensation for the losses suffered. By understanding the process of filing a wrongful death claim and consulting with an experienced attorney, you can navigate this difficult legal journey and protect your rights. Remember, hiring an attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases is essential to ensure the best possible outcome for your claim.

Contact (859-746-0500) Michael O’Hara, PLLC for a Consultation

About Michael A. O’Hara, PLLC

When you have to deal with the justice system – whether related to a civil or criminal matter – you need more than the truth on your side. You need a skilled attorney who can employ sound legal strategies to produce the results you are hoping for. I am attorney Michael A. O’Hara, and I am licensed to practice in Kentucky and Ohio at the state level, as well as in Federal District Court and the Federal Court of Claims. I have been representing clients in the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati area since 1994.