A wrongful death claim is a suit that arises from the death of an individual that was caused by the conduct of another. A wrongful death suit is different from other types of personal injury claims because the actual victim (the "decedent") is not bringing suit, rather it is the family members or the decedent's estate. As such, a wrongful death claim is brought to recover damages for the injuries that the surviving family and/or estate have suffered due to the death of the victim. The damages recovered do not include damages that are personal to the decedent, since the decedent is not allowed to recover for pain and suffering, mental distress, or any other form of compensatory damages unique to him or her. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to provide relief to family members who have been injured emotionally and financially as a result of the family member's death.
To file a wrongful death suit, typically you must show that:
- The death of a person was caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default of another person, corporation, or entity.
- The act, neglect or default would have entitled the injured person to file an action to recover damages had the death not occurred.
- There is a surviving spouse or next of kin.
- Monetary damages have resulted from the decedent's death.
The personal representative of the deceased may file a wrongful death suit for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse or children. A personal representative is a person appointed by the to represent the beneficiaries.