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What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Understanding whether the estate of your loved one has a wrongful death claim

wrongful death lawsuit


In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family of the deceased must prove that the death of their loved one was negligently or intentionally caused by another. Laws vary from state to state regarding wrongful death lawsuits, but no matter where you live, you can (and should) file this type of lawsuit if you believe your loved one died because of another's actions.. These lawsuits can help protect other people from suffering a similar fate.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Every wrongful death claim must meet four main criteria:

  1. The victim died because of the actions (or lack thereof) of the defendant
  2. The defendant was liable for the victim's death
  3. There are surviving beneficiaries
  4. Monetary damages have resulted due to the death

State Laws

State laws differ, but most of the time, an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) can file the wrongful death claim. Some states allow extended family members to also have that option of filing a wrongful death suit. There are time limits, called statutes of limitations, which also apply when filing a lawsuit, so it is important to talk to a lawyer about your case as soon as possible.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process

After you file a wrongful death lawsuit, you'll enter a period known as "discovery." During this time period, both sides will have an opportunity to gather evidence to as part of a complete evaluation of the case. You may need to take part in a deposition during this time, which is where any party or witness can be called upon by one or more lawyers in a case to answer questions under oath.

Many wrongful death lawsuits are settled before a trial begins. Many states actually require a judge assigned to hear a wrongful death case to sit down with both sides and try to work out a settlement before a trial begins. If a settlement can't be reached, a trial will follow and both parties are given the opportunity to present their case before a judge and usually a jury.


Wrongful death lawsuits are often difficult to succeed in, especially if you're pursuing a claim against a large company or hospital, which will often have entire legal teams defending them. It is always best to contact an experienced lawyer regarding your wrongful death lawsuit as soon as possible. By working with a professional who has experience in dealing with wrongful death cases, you can get the money you need to pay for expenses and help to ensure that others aren't victimized the same way your loved one was.

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