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What is a wrongful death claim?

When you have been injured in an accident caused by another party's negligence, you can seek compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages through a personal injury lawsuit. This helps you cope with the effects of your injury, and it helps hold negligent parties accountable. But what about fatal accidents? How can family members cope with the sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one and that person's income? The answer is a special type of claim known as a wrongful death lawsuit.

In many ways, wrongful death cases are similar to personal injury cases. Both types of lawsuits seek to compensate the victims for their damages and hold negligent parties accountable. However, there are some significant differences. A wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the deceased person's estate, on behalf of the deceased's immediate family members. If successful, the family may be compensated for monetary losses, such as loss of the deceased's projected income.

Courts determine the amount of income the deceased would have earned through complicated calculations. The process can be time-consuming, frustrating and unpleasant. However, the monetary losses suffered by surviving family members are very real. Compensation can make a positive difference in their lives after they have suffered a devastating loss.

A wrongful death lawsuit can also help hold a negligent party accountable. Often, wrongful death lawsuits follow criminal cases that failed to secure a conviction. Because the standard of proof is lower in a wrongful death lawsuit than it is in a criminal case, a family can win a wrongful death verdict even if prosecutors were unable to win a guilty verdict against the negligent party.

Whatever the situation, a wrongful death award can bring a level of closure to the loved ones left behind after an unexpected death. It can't bring back a loved one, but it can help them cope with the sudden loss.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful death overview," Accessed April 25, 2016

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