What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death? Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when their death is unexpected. The mental and emotional aspects are difficult enough as they are, but depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s death, you may also want to seek justice and legal recourse for the loss. This is especially the case if their death was preventable and wrongful under the law.

If you’ve recently lost a loved one and question the cause of their death or believe someone else was to blame, you’re not alone, and legal assistance is available. Consult with a local Feasterville wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible to discuss your case.

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Understanding “Wrongful Death”

As the name suggests, a “wrongful death” occurs under wrongful circumstances. A wrongful death happens due to another party’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.

Understanding “Wrongful Death

The wrongful actions can be by an individual, like a physician or a driver, or an entity, like a hospital or manufacturer. It’s important to investigate the cause of the deceased’s death to understand what caused their death. If their death was the result of a party’s acts or omissions, there’s a high likelihood it was a wrongful death.

Chances are you do not have the resources to pinpoint the cause and identify liability on your own, and you should focus on grieving and caring for yourself and your family. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can gather evidence of liability to determine whether you have a case for wrongful death and against which parties.

What Most Often Causes a Wrongful Death?

An individual can pass away as a result of many different accidents and incidents, most commonly including:

  • Vehicular collisions, including car, truck, and motorcycle crashes
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Falls
  • Criminal conduct, like a stabbing or shooting
  • Medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis, surgical errors, and incorrect treatment
  • Defective or malfunctioning products
  • Nursing home abuse
  • Workplace accidents

Sometimes, the situation may cause death to the victim right away or result in serious harm, which the victim eventually succumbs to.

Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful Death Claims

When an individual dies at the hands of another, the victim’s family may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover monetarily for their losses. If your lawyer determines you have a valid compensation claim, they can file a wrongful death lawsuit in court.

Wrongful death cases fall under the umbrella of personal injury law. Personal injury law opens the door for victims to seek financial recovery for the injuries and losses they’ve suffered as a result of another’s wrongdoings. Filing a lawsuit allows you to hold the responsible person accountable and recover the compensation you deserve.

Unless a special circumstance exists, the victim themself brings their own personal injury lawsuit. Wrongful death claims differ, as the victim has passed away, and their families are left to deal with the mental, emotional, and financial consequences of their passing.

A wrongful death lawsuit allows the victim's families to get the monetary recovery they need during a most challenging time.

Who Brings a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

State law differs on who is allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Depending on state wrongful death law, the following parties may be entitled to bring the claim:

  • Estate representatives (the individual in charge of the victim’s estate)
  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Financial dependents

It’s important to determine how your state handles wrongful death claims. A knowledgeable attorney can better explain state law and assist with filing your claim.

Who Can Be Sued for Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against a wide variety of individuals and entities based on the situation that brought about the death. Some of the parties commonly held liable for wrongful death include:

  • Drivers or employers at fault for a collision
  • Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals
  • Governmental entities and their employees
  • Property owners and occupiers
  • Manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and others in charge of dangerous products
  • Hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes
  • Hotels and resorts

One party alone may be responsible, or several parties may share liability. Determining the cause of the death is essential to hold the right individuals and/or entities liable.

What To Expect During a Wrongful Death Suit

The thought of filing a wrongful death lawsuit and having to relive your loved one’s death can be particularly stressful and intimidating. However, knowing how the process works and what you can expect can help give you peace of mind and ease some of your worries.

Filing Your Claim

Filing Your Claim

Generally, initiating a claim is similar in most states. The first step involves filing your wrongful death claim in court. Your lawyer can draft the documents and file the claim on your behalf, along with any other supporting documents and necessary fees.

Once the case is filed in court, you’ll need to serve the other side with copies of the summons and complaint. This acts as formal notification of the impending lawsuit. After the party has been served, they have a limited time, usually 21 days, to file their response to your claims.

Upon the defendant(s) filing their response in court, the case can proceed to the next steps.


Discovery is the most important and action-packed part of any type of personal injury lawsuit. During the discovery phase, both parties have the opportunity to obtain information from the other to build and strengthen their cases. The outcome of a case often rests on what occurs during discovery.

Certain legal tools help parties to the case obtain the information they need, including interrogatories, requests for production, and depositions. This is the part of the case that provides both sides with answers and clarity on the situation that resulted in the victim’s death.

The discovery phase is also commonly the most time-consuming portion of a case. Discovery can take anywhere from several weeks to even years, depending on the complexities of a case and the parties’ willingness to move the case along.

Once discovery has concluded, you can move on to resolving the case, whether that involves settlement or going to court.

Resolving the Matter

Wrongful death cases, like personal injury cases, often settle. When a case settles, it means both parties have come to an agreement on how much the victim’s surviving family members should receive for their losses. Settling a case is beneficial for both sides, as it saves time, money, and additional aggravation.

Settlement negotiations may take some time to complete. Both sides’ attorneys go back and forth, discussing the case and making offers and counteroffers. Once parties agree to settle, the party in charge of the wrongful death suit signs documents and eventually receives a settlement check.

When parties cannot find common ground and the case cannot be settled, the case goes to trial. Both parties present their cases to the judge (and perhaps a jury) during the trial. In making their determination, the judge (and jury) consider several case details, including arguments, evidence, and testimony.

Upon the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury renders a decision on the matter, including the amount you’re entitled to receive, if any. The other side will provide the funds after the trial if you’re entitled to monetary recovery.

Determining How Much Your Wrongful Death Claim is Worth

Like other types of personal injury cases, the value of a wrongful death claim is extremely case-specific, taking into account several factors, including the victim’s age and income at the time of their death, the victim’s life expectancy, and state-specific laws.

Some of the damages a wrongful death victim’s surviving family members may be entitled to receive include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income and benefits
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of love, support, and companionship
  • Loss of consortium

Additionally, the victim’s family may be entitled to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages as they do not aim to compensate the plaintiff. Instead, punitive damages punish the defendant for their intentional, grossly negligent, or malicious conduct and also serve to deter potential future actors from behaving in the same manner.

Calculating damages accurately can be one of the hardest parts of a wrongful death claim. Still, a wrongful death lawyer can properly calculate the value of your case and work diligently to get you full and fair compensation for your losses.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits – Civil vs. Criminal: What’s the Difference?

There is much confusion around wrongful death lawsuits and criminal prosecution for a victim’s death. It’s worth noting that the two are entirely different.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s passing, a defendant can face civil liability for wrongful death while also facing criminal charges for the same death. The results of civil and criminal cases vary greatly, though.

Civil cases, like wrongful death claims, are measured in terms of finances. For this reason, if a party is found liable for the victim’s wrongful death, they must pay financial damages. On the other hand, a criminal conviction can result in steep fines, prison time, probation, and other penalties.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Actions

It’s critical to understand that time is limited to take action for your loved one’s death. This can be particularly difficult for surviving family members, as many need time to cope and deal with their loved one’s death. Jumping into a legal case right away isn’t ideal, but it does give you the chance to fight for justice – something owed to you and the victim.

Statutes of limitations are state-specific laws that limit the time plaintiffs have to initiate their claims in court. Generally, based on your state’s laws, you may have only one to three years to file your lawsuit. However, certain circumstances may impact this timeframe.

While one to three years may seem like a long time, it is not. Time goes by rather quickly, and the longer you wait to pursue legal action, the more you risk forfeiting your right to justice and compensation. For this reason, you should schedule a consultation with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to avoid losing your rights.

Should I Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer to Handle My Case?

Hiring an attorney to represent you throughout your case is not legally required. However, working with a lawyer can have a strong, positive impact on your case and seek the best possible outcome.

Wrongful Death Lawyer

Wrongful death lawsuits are difficult to navigate, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the laws and procedures associated with these cases. A seasoned wrongful death lawyer has the skills, tools, and resources to handle your case and protect your rights and interests efficiently.

Of the many essential tasks your wrongful death attorney can handle on your behalf, your lawyer can:

  • Investigate your case
  • Determine cause and fault
  • File your lawsuit in court
  • Calculate your damages
  • Communicate with the opposing party
  • Engage in settlement negotiations
  • Represent you at trial, if necessary

Having a wrongful death attorney on your side can give you immense peace as you handle one of life’s greatest challenges.

What To Do if You Believe a Loved One Has Died Under Wrongful Circumstances

If your loved one has passed away and you have suspicions regarding their cause of death, do not hesitate to seek a qualified legal opinion as quickly as possible. During your consultation, your prospective attorney will gather information and details about your loved one’s death and decide whether you have a viable claim.

Time is limited to take action. Therefore, if doubts exist concerning your loved one’s passing, it’s truly in your best interest to get the help you need.

Money cannot bring back or replace your loved one, but it can help ease the financial burdens you may face after your great loss. Nobody understands the pain and frustration of losing your loved one as a result of someone’s actions better than a wrongful death attorney.

A wrongful death lawyer can offer the care, compassion, and kindness you need while providing the fierce advocacy and representation you and your loved one deserve. If you believe your loved one died wrongfully, don’t wait to seek legal assistance.

Gabriel Levin Author Image

Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

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