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When can a family bring a wrongful death suit?


The sudden death of a loved one can be a big shock for a family. Families can be left with deep emotional turmoil and completely unable to see past their pain. In these situations, families may wonder if it is possible to hold someone responsible for the death of their beloved family member.

In a wrongful death suit, families can hold another party responsible for the death if a few elements are fulfilled. First, the person’s death must have been caused by the negligence of another. A person is negligent when that person or entity owed the deceased a duty of care and breached that duty through some action or inaction. Second, the death must have caused the family some sort of economic harm. This can come from funeral costs, medical expenses before the death or lost wages. However, the family must have actual damages. Finally, a personal representative of the deceased estate must be appointed and must bring the suit.

Once a wrongful death suit is filed, a family can recover a variety of damages. The family can be compensated for actual expenses such as funeral costs, but also for lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of companionship and more. This compensation can help a family move forward from their loss without financial difficulties. It allows families to focus on their emotional healing instead of their budget.

When doctors, nurses or hospitals are responsible for a death, a wrongful death may be appropriate. The misdiagnosis of a fatal condition or a medical mistake are both examples of negligence, in many cases. Specific legal advice — which this post cannot provide — is necessary to determine if a family can file a wrongful death suit. Therefore, families should speak with an attorney.

Source:, “Wrongful Death Overview,” accessed Nov. 2, 2014