How To Prove Negligence In A Wrongful Death Case

How To Prove Negligence In A Wrongful Death Case

How To Prove Negligence In A Wrongful Death Case

death is the loss of life caused by the unlawful act of someone else. The term refers to a killing justified as self-defense, defense of another person, or in a just war. Because of this, most jurisdictions have laws that forbid homicide and outline what conduct constitutes negligence.

Negligence is an actionable tort committed when one party fails to take reasonable care of himself or others and causes harm. When a party’s negligence causes harm to someone else, the wronged party has grounds for a claim for damages. Yourlawyer must consider that each state has its procedures, limitation periods, and required elements for a wrongful death case.

This article will provide details on proving negligence in a wrongful death case.

Elements of Negligence

In a wrongful death case, the elements of negligence are similar to those in a personal injury case. The plaintiff (survivor or decedent’s estate) must prove that:

  • The defendant owed the victim a duty to act reasonably.
  • The defendant breached this duty through negligence.
  • The defendant’s breach made a direct and substantial contribution to the victim’s harm.
  • The victim suffered harm as a result.
  • The defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death.

A duty is a moral or legal obligation owed to another person. Some duties are founded in law or statute, and some are formed by customs, such as the duties of physicians in caring for their patients and the driver’s duty to maintain their vehicle.

A defendant owes a duty to their neighbor simply by living on the same property or running a business.

If a defendant voluntarily assumes the duty, such as by signing a contract to provide care to a nursing home resident, the defendant has voluntarily taken duty and is strictly liable for any harm that results from failure to perform that duty.

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However, if the wrongful death claim is for injuries caused by medical malpractice or negligent security measures, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to meet this obligation.

Although not required in all states, most courts allow plaintiffs to recover damages for their emotional distress.

A breach of duty occurs when the defendant violates a duty owed to the plaintiff. The court will then consider whether any harm that resulted from the defendant’s negligence was caused by a direct and substantial contribution on the defendant’s part. To establish that this contribution was made, the plaintiff is required to prove that:

  • The defendant had a legal duty to take steps to prevent harm.
  • The defendant breached this duty through negligence.
  • The breach was a substantial contributor to the harm caused to the victim.
  • Most states have laws that cap the number of damages recoverable for pain and suffering. These laws include:
  • The damages recoverable by the plaintiff for pain and suffering are capped at one million dollars.
  • The damages recoverable for loss of society and companionship of the victim are capped at ten million dollars.
  • Other state laws set a dollar cap on other non pecuniary damages, such as medical expenses and loss of earnings, but these provisions are less common.
  • Although not necessary in all states, some jurisdictions allow plaintiffs to recover damages for their emotional distress.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim will not be approved unless the deceased has suffered damage. These damages may be monetary or intangible; both are possible. The plaintiff is entitled to recover the value of the wrongful death claim.

For example, if a person is killed in a car crash and the decedent’s estate recovers five million dollars on their claim, the estate would be able to collect that amount as damages. However, if those funds are not enough to cover funeral costs and other expenses, the estate may seek other recovery measures.

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The amount of harm sustained by a person is not always easy to pinpoint and may include intangible values such as loss of companionship, love, comfort, or support. Most states do not allow damages to be recovered for the pain and suffering incurred by the victim before their death.

For damages to be awarded in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the decadent suffered economic harm before death. This requirement is called the “economic loss requirement.” Courts have defined financial harm in different ways. The most common definition is that the decedent must be harmed by something that takes money away from them. This can include payments to family members, medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages.


Negligence is a complex area of law, and the elements are different for each state as YourLawyer. However, the elements outlined above are standard across most states. To recover in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions caused harm and that harm was significant enough to warrant compensation.