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What Are The Basics Of A Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death laws exist to ensure justice for people who died under terrible circumstances and to get compensation for their loved ones. When wrongful death lawyers examine cases, they look for some basic components. If you're wondering whether you might have a wrongful death claim, these four factors will tell you if it's likely to pass muster. 

Negligence, Recklessness, or Malice

Even if a death is horrible, that doesn't necessarily make it wrongful in the civil legal sense. For a defendant to be liable, they must have been negligent, reckless, or malicious. If a driver blew through a red light and T-boned the victim's car, that would be negligent because they should have observed the stop signal.

Willful behaviors can underpin cases too. If someone didn't intend to harm someone but was acting recklessly, that might lead to liability. Suppose the defendant was playing with explosives to show off to their friends. The reckless behavior would likely justify a wrongful death claim.

Malice is another argument for a case. If an angry person punched the victim in a bar fight, they could be liable. Even if the intention was only to send a message rather than kill, the act may still be malicious.

Breach of Duty of Care

Not everyone is responsible for whether harm comes to others. Suppose a passerby ignores a person about to fall from a window in a multistory building. The passerby has no duty to prevent harm from coming to a stranger.

Conversely, a driver takes on this duty when they get into a car. Doctors accept a duty of care when they accept patients. Property owners have to keep their properties safe.

Proximate Cause

Whatever killed the victim must be the most proximate cause of their death. Suppose a worker was on a building's roof. Lightning hit them. The defense might argue that they couldn't have known lightning was going to hit. That argument could hold up if the strike happened on a clear day. If the defendant ignored weather alerts and sent the worker onto the roof anyhow, then that order could be the proximate cause.

Relationship to the Victim

A claimant has to be the closest compensable relative of the victim. Spouses are at the top of the list. Dependant children are next. Adult non-dependent children are further down the line. If no claimants with that close of a relationship survived the victim, there might still be others who can pursue claims. Siblings, parents, or even cousins can file claims. The court will have to determine who the closest relative is before the case goes forward.

Contact a local wrongful death lawyer to learn more.