Wrongful death claims are brought against a defendant who caused the death of someone else due to negligence or intentional harm. A wrongful death claim is when a relative of the deceased person files a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death. One of the most common situations for a wrongful death claim is a car accident fatality involving negligence. If a victim of a car accident dies as a result of their injuries then a wrongful death claim may be relevant.
To prove a defendant was liable in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet if they had lived. In terms of negligence the defendant owed the victim a duty of care that was breached. Because the breach of duty was a direct cause of the death, the death caused damages in which the plaintiff is trying to recover.
A wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the deceased victim’s estate, which is typically a survivor who had a relationship with the victim. The most common representative of a wrongful death claim is a spouse. Parents of minors may also file a claim and minors can collect compensation for the death of their parents. In Oregon, children and parents may bring a wrongful death claim including stepchildren and stepparents. Three of the lesser common claimants include grandchildren, siblings and grandparents. The more distant the familial relationship is, the harder it is to show that should be allowed to collect wrongful death damages.
Damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim are:
- Deceased person’s pre-death pain and suffering
- The medical costs that the deceased victim incurred as a result of the injury prior to death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of deceased person’s expected income
- Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death
- Value of services the deceased would have provided
- Loss of care, guidance and nurturing that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
Keep in mind that the statute of limitations, or time limit for filing a wrongful death claim, is three years after the injury causing death occurred.