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By stephen of Kristensen, LLP posted in Wrongful Death on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.
Everything You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The first thing to know about what a wrongful death lawsuit is its legal definition: A civil action in which damages are sought against a party for causing a death. Wrongful death claims usually stem from, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  • Medical malpractice
  • Automotive vehicle accidents
  • Commercial truck or vehicle accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Aviation accidents

 

Further, wrongful death liability is mainly split between acting intentionally and negligence. Regardless, there are many steps to filing a wrongful death lawsuit, and many other important points to consider. Here’s everything you need to know about wrongful death claims:

 

Real Parties of Interest

 

In wrongful death lawsuits, the representative that brings forward the claim is called the “Real Party of Interest”. A Real Party of Interest can’t be just anyone – there are steps you need to take to qualify. Usually, the Real Party of Interest is the executor of the estate of the individual that is deceased. 

 

While it varies from state to state, Real Parties of Interest may include immediate family members (spouses and children), life partners, financial dependents, other family members, and more.

 

Who Do “Real Parties of Interest” Sue?

 

The defendant or defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit are typically any of the following: 

 

  • A commercial vehicle driver
  • An employer
  • A manufacturer or distributor of a product or part that is involved in an accident
  • A person or business that sold or served alcohol to the impaired driver (who is at fault)

 

There are certain parties that are immune from liability in wrongful death claims, such as government workers, though entitlement to immunity also varies from state to state.

 

What Is Recovered In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

 

The Real Party of Interest in a wrongful death lawsuit may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

 

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of income
  • Lost prospect of inheritance
  • Loss of potential future earnings/income

 

Noneconomic damages are, unlike economic damages, harder to quantify. “Pain and suffering” is one of the more common types of noneconomic damages. While there are other kinds of noneconomic damages, such as “punitive damages” (death due to egregious conduct and gross negligence), most states don’t award such damages.

 

How to File 

 

In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the Real Parties of Interest must first open a probate estate in order to sue on behalf of the deceased. Once this is done, and of course, after the person(s) bringing the lawsuit forward have been recognized by the court as the Real Parties of Interest, two things must be established in court:

 

  1. The death was caused by the defendant’s negligence, and not by the actions or inactions of the deceased, and
  2. The Real Parties of Interest suffered measurable damages due to the death.

 

In almost every case, it’s best to hire an experienced law firm, like Kristensen LLP.