How Do You Know When a Death Qualifies for a Wrongful Death Suit?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2017.

When a person is injured by another person or entity, the injured party can usually file a personal injury lawsuit to recoup expenses resulting from the incident. If the injured party is incapacitated, a family member or spouse may file a lawsuit on his behalf. When someone dies, his surviving family may wonder if the death was preventable, and whether someone else is responsible.

A wrongful death claim can take the place of a personal injury lawsuit if a victim does not survive his injuries. The decedent’s surviving loved ones – typically a spouse, child, parent, or other close relative – sues the party who caused the death. A wrongful death suit can recover expenses such as funeral and burial costs, medical expenses from the final injury or illness, lost income the deceased would have reasonably expected to earn, and compensation for the surviving family’s loss. Just as proving negligence is crucial to winning a personal injury lawsuit, a death must meet certain criteria to qualify as a wrongful death.

Reasons for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

Generally, if a death was the result of another person or entity’s inappropriate actions, the death may qualify for a wrongful death claim. There are three ways a death can qualify as a wrongful death and constitute a claim, and the death in question must meet one of them:


Just like in personal injury lawsuits, if the offending party was careless, reckless, or violated the duty to act with reasonable care, the victim’s family can file a wrongful death claim based on negligence. The plaintiff’s attorney will show the court that the defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care (such as following the traffic laws and safely operating a vehicle), they violated this duty, and the victim’s death directly resulted from this violation.

Deliberate Actions

If the person who caused the victim’s death acted with the intent to harm the victim, this is grounds for a wrongful death claim, too. Whether or not the defendant intended to kill the victim is irrelevant. The intent to do harm is the most important factor, so if someone deliberately harms someone else, the aggressor is responsible for the results. In most cases like this, the defendant faces criminal charges in addition to a civil action from the victim’s family.

If the defendant can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he did not intend to kill the victim, the defendant may receive a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, or a similar conviction. If the evidence shows the defendant clearly intended to cause harm to the victim and showed no signs of restraint, the defendant may face murder charges.

Strict Liability

In some cases, an unsafe or defective product may be the cause of death. The manufacturer or entity on the supply chain anywhere between production and end customer that is responsible for the defect will be held accountable for the death resulting from use of the product. Wrongful death cases of this type may result in a recall of the death-causing product. A product is considered defective in three possible ways:

  • The product is flawed by design. There is some inherent defect in the design of the product, so every unit produced using that design is potentially dangerous.
  • The product was incorrectly manufactured. Some defect in the manufacturing process caused the flaw. In some cases, the defect may have only affected certain lots or units, and the manufacturer will recall the affected items.
  • Defective marketing, misrepresentation of the product in marketing materials, or if the manufacturer failed to warn users of hazards associated with normal, intended uses of the product.

Wrongful deaths are tragic because they are preventable. It’s important for surviving loved ones to connect with a reliable attorney with experience in the appropriate branch of law. Our Birmingham wrongful death attorneys have more than a decade of experience; call today for a free consultation where we’ll provide honest feedback and actionable plans for your unique case.