Grief after the death of a family in accident

Understanding the Intricacies: How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works


How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works. At the Law Offices of Jared Spingarn, P.A., we understand that the loss of a loved one is always devastating. Grief is often compounded when the victim’s death is a result of someone else’s wrongful conduct, such as a car accident or medical negligence. We are committed to helping surviving family members understand their legal rights and options to pursue compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Understanding Wrongful Death

A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another. This concept extends to various scenarios, including:

When a wrongful death occurs, certain family members may file a wrongful death claim against those legally responsible. These wrongful death suits may allow the family to recover compensation for financial and emotional damages related to their relative’s death.

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process

How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

Initiating the Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death lawsuit usually begins when the personal representative of the decedent’s estate files a wrongful death claim in a civil court. In most wrongful death suits, the personal representative of the decedent’s death is a surviving family member such as a surviving spouse or an immediate family member.

Elements of a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit

To establish a successful wrongful death lawsuit, the claimant must prove that the defendant’s wrongful conduct directly caused the deceased person’s death. This might involve providing evidence like medical bills, a police report, or testimonies proving medical negligence or a fatal car accident itself.

Claiming Wrongful Death Damages

Family members who have suffered damages due to their loved one’s wrongful death settlement may be eligible to recover compensation in a wrongful death settlement. Potential damages include loss of financial support, funeral expenses, medical bills incurred before the decedent’s death, and emotional distress.

The Role of the Insurance Company

After filing the wrongful death suit, a demand letter is typically sent to the insurance company of the defendant. Recovering compensation often involves tough negotiations with the insurance company, making it imperative to have an experienced wrongful death claims attorney on your side.

Statute of Limitations

Each state’s wrongful death statute sets a time limit, known as the statute of limitations, within which the wrongful death claim must be filed. This makes it crucial to start the legal process as soon as possible after the wrongful death.

When to Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer

Given the complexities of wrongful death cases, it’s important to hire a wrongful death lawyer who is familiar with your state law. An experienced attorney can help the deceased person’s family understand their rights, build a strong case, file a wrongful death action, and maximize the potential wrongful death settlement.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In a wrongful death case, the first question to arise is often who has the right to bring a wrongful death suit. Typically in a wrongful death matter, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate initiates the wrongful death action. However, the state’s wrongful death statute can determine who else may be eligible to sue for wrongful death.

In most cases, immediate family members like spouses and children can file a wrongful death claim. In certain jurisdictions, financially dependent individuals or those who suffer damages due to a wrongful death lawsuit works can also bring a wrongful death suit. This can include parents of minor children or dependent adults.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

person dies in a car accident

Wrongful death cases are more common than you might think, and they can occur in a variety of contexts. Here are some typical scenarios:

  • Car Accidents: When a person dies in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence or recklessness, the surviving family members can initiate a wrongful death suit against the at-fault party.

  • Medical Malpractice: If a doctor or other healthcare professional’s negligence leads to a patient’s death, it can give rise to a medical malpractice wrongful death case. This might involve surgical errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or medication errors.

In any such wrongful death lawsuit case, it’s important to obtain all relevant evidence such as medical records and accident reports to establish legal fault.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When a wrongful death action is successful, the decedent’s estate and/or surviving family members may receive financial compensation in the form of damages. Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit typically fall into two categories:

Economic Damages: These include the financial contributions the deceased person would have made to the survivors if not for the untimely death. Examples are lost wages, future earnings, and the costs of medical care prior to death.

Non-Economic Damages: These are more subjective and include the emotional pain and suffering of the surviving family members. Non-economic damages may also cover loss of companionship or consortium.

In some wrongful death cases, where the defendant’s conduct was especially reckless or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are not meant to compensate the survivors but to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar wrongful acts in the future.

Role of an Experienced Attorney in Wrongful Death Claims

Experienced Attorney in Wrongful Death Claims

The guidance of an experienced attorney is crucial in wrongful death lawsuits. Such legal professionals can assist wrongful death lawyers in many ways:

  • Understanding the State Law: Wrongful death statutes vary by state. A knowledgeable attorney can help interpret the state’s wrongful death statute and explain how it applies to your case.

  • Navigating the Legal Process: From filing the lawsuit to negotiating settlements, an attorney guides the decedent’s estate through each step.

  • Maximizing Compensation: An experienced attorney can help in accurately valuing the claim and fighting for the maximum possible compensation.

  • Managing the Statute of Limitations: Every state imposes a time limit to file a wrongful death claim, known as the statute of limitations. If you miss this deadline, you may lose your right to compensation. An attorney ensures that all filings are made within these statutory deadlines.

Distinguishing Between Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Cases

While personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits may seem similar, they have distinct differences that influence the legal process and potential settlements.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person, also known as the plaintiff, files a claim against the person or entity that caused the injury, known as the defendant. The plaintiff seeks compensation for damages suffered due to the personal injury claim to the defendant’s wrongful act. These damages may include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Wrongful Death Cases

Contrarily, in a wrongful death case, the lawsuit is filed by the survivors or the estate of a deceased person who lost their life due to the negligence or misconduct of another. The damages in a wrongful death case can include lost financial support, loss of companionship, medical and funeral expenses, and burial expenses.

Different Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful and wrongful death lawsuits can arise from various circumstances, and each type requires a unique approach. Here are a few examples:

Car Accidents

Car accidents can often lead to a wrongful death case if one party acted negligently or recklessly, resulting in the death of another person. These cases require a thorough investigation to establish fault, and they may necessitate expert testimony to confirm negligence or recklessness.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice wrongful death cases are initiated when a healthcare professional fails to provide an acceptable standard of care, resulting in a patient or loved one’s death thereafter. These cases can be complex and usually require expert testimony to prove negligence on the part of the healthcare provider.

Workplace Accidents

Certain occupations, particularly those in industries such as construction or manufacturing, pose significant risks. If an employer fails to uphold safety standards and a worker dies as a result, a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate.

Navigating Wrongful Death Settlements

Settling a wrongful death case can be a complex process. The amount and nature of the settlement depend on numerous factors, including the age and health of the deceased, their earning potential, the extent that wrongful death lawsuits work, of negligence involved, and the number of dependents left behind.

Insurance companies often play a crucial role in wrongful-death lawsuit settlements. However, it’s important to remember that insurance adjusters work to minimize the payout. Therefore, having an experienced attorney to advocate on your behalf is vital to ensure you receive fair compensation.

Proving Liability in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In order to successfully sue for a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was legally responsible for the loved one’s death. The four key elements to prove in a wrongful death case include:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant had a responsibility to ensure the safety of the deceased person.

  • Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to fulfill this duty of care.

  • Causation: This breach of duty directly resulted in the death of the individual.

  • Damages: The survivors or the decedent’s estate suffered damages as a result of the death.

Establishing these elements typically requires substantial evidence, such as eyewitness accounts, medical records, and expert testimony.

In the end, understanding and navigating the complexities of how a wrongful death lawsuit works out can be challenging. Yet, it is a crucial part of pursuing justice for a loved one’s untimely death and seeking the compensation that survivors need to move forward. An experienced wrongful death attorney can provide invaluable assistance throughout this process.


Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be a complex and emotionally draining process. The Law Offices of Jared Spingarn, P.A. can guide you every step of the way, ensuring that you pursue compensation effectively and receive the justice you deserve. For a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, contact our law firm today.

Note: In the unfortunate event of a deceased fetus due to wrongful conduct, family members may also be able to file a wrongful death suit, depending on the state laws.

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