What Makes Wrongful Death Claims Different From Other Injury Cases?
Wrongful death claims represent a particular area of personal injury law. That can sound a little different, but it makes sense in the way the law handles it. Take a look at why these claims are personal injuries and how they may differ from other injury cases.
How Is a Wrongful Death an Injury?
A reasonable guess might be that death represents the most extreme form of injury. That's a fair guess, but it's not how the law sees the matter. Instead, the injury involves a living person. Generally, the claimant is someone who had a meaningful stake in the life of the deceased person.
For example, a spouse usually has the most recognizable claim because they've lost a life partner. Legally, the injury of this loss extends to all the benefits of being married. This includes the dead spouse's lost future earning potential, consortium with them as a mate, and co-parenting capacity if the couple had kids.
Notably, the deceased's injuries are included in the claim, too. If they had medical bills from treatment before they died, for example, those will fold into the wrongful death claim. The same goes for their pain and suffering prior to passing.
The immediate victim isn't filing the claim in these types of cases. This means whoever does file the claim has to prove legal standing. As noted, a surviving spouse always has standing. If the deceased didn't have a spouse, any surviving dependent minor children would have a very solid claim.
If there isn't a surviving spouse or dependent child, the right to file a claim tracks somewhat like a claim to an estate. Usually, the law favors whoever is the closest living relative, such as a parent or sibling of the deceased. If you're not sure whether you would have standing, it's wise to consult with a wrongful death attorney before filing a claim.
Non-relatives virtually never have standing. If someone was a critical business partner, for example, the law believes you should have purchased life insurance if you wanted to hedge the risk that your business partner might pass.
Once you've established standing, a wrongful death claim operates like an injury case. You'll have to prove the defendant was liable for the victim's injuries. Similarly, you'll have to document all the compensable losses, such as showing how much the deceased earned, how they suffered from the incident, and what the related medical bills were.