Negligent actions, whether they be reckless or merely careless in nature, that result in a loss of life may be subject to wrongful death actions in civil court. The one responsible for a wrongful death may be an individual or another entity.
Sometimes the cause of a wrongful death is an accident. Other times it is a willful attempt to cause harm. There are also times when a wrongful death occurs as a result of recklessness that may not have been intended to cause harm but nevertheless was not reasonable behavior in a given circumstance.
The following are examples of some of the most common causes of wrongful death, both accidental and intentional.
1. Criminal Activity
An unlawful act that results in a loss of life is one of the most common reasons for filing a wrongful death claim. Because wrongful death is a civil action handled by a different court, it is possible for someone accused of causing someone else’s death to face criminal charges and a civil suit, sometimes at the same time.
Many bereaved family members choose to file wrongful death claims because the standard of evidence is much lower than it is for many criminal charges. To prove a wrongful death claim, you need only a preponderance of evidence that the person is responsible for the victim losing his or her life. For criminal charges, however, it is often necessary to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. Automobile Accidents
Fatalities from automobile accidents account for a high percentage of wrongful death lawsuits. A large portion of these include lawsuits against commercial truck drivers, and sometimes the companies that hire them. Because of the size and the difficulty handling large trucks, those who own and operate them are held to a higher standard of safety.
3. Medical Malpractice
There are standards in place to establish the quality of care that each patient is entitled to receive in a medical setting. Medical malpractice occurs when the care falls below that quality standard. It is much more common than many people realize, representing the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, and hospitals themselves can all be subject to a medical malpractice suit.
4. Product Liability
Manufacturers have an obligation to ensure that they sell only safe products to the public. When they know, or should have known, that their products are dangerous and sell them anyway, they can be subject to a liability lawsuit.
There are many possible causes of wrongful death, and family members have the right to seek damages from the responsible parties. A good wrongful death lawyer can explain your legal rights.