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Frequently Asked Questions about Wrongful Death


Has a loved one passed away due to the wrongful behavior of someone else?  If so, you or a loved one may have a claim for wrongful death.  What is wrongful death, what comprises a case for wrongful death, what are the damages available, and how is loss determined?  Consider the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about wrongful death below.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death cases are a little like personal injury cases.  However, a suit for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or set of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent’s death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awards from these actions belong to the estate and may pass to different parties as directed by the decedent’s will.

What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit?

The elements are as follows: 1) the death of a human being, 2) caused by another’s negligence or with intent to cause harm, 3) the survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death, and 4) the appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate.

What Kinds of Deaths Can Form the Basis for Wrongful Death Cases?

There are nearly infinite ways a wrongful death case can come about.  Some of the most common methods are through medical malpractice, through auto accidents, through exposure to toxic materials or chemicals, or through someone else’s criminal behavior.

What Kinds of Damages Are Available?

There are a variety of forms of damages, or forms of compensation, that can result from a wrongful death case.  The purpose of most forms of compensation is to provide pecuniary, or financial, injury relief.  These forms protect against loss of support, lost wages, medical and funeral expenses, etc.

How Are Damages Determined?

Damages are largely determined by the jury after testimonial evidence.  Plaintiffs will often present the expert testimony of economists to establish the value of the decedent to his family.  This will often include the types of damages discussed above.

What about Punitive Damages?

Most forms of damages are about compensation, or to repay survivors for their loss.  However, there is also something called punitive damages.  Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants for wrongful conduct.  In some states, punitive damages are not available in wrongful death cases, but in other states, they are.  You can speak to an attorney about whether there may be punitive damages available to you in your case. 

Where Can I Find an Attorney?

Many attorneys are available for wrongful death cases.  But you want an attorney with experience at your side who can protect your rights and interests.  Wrongful death cases are extremely fact-specific and can be very complex.  Reach out to the skilled Columbia wrongful death attorneys at The Stanley Law Group for help.  Call 803-799-4700 and set up a consultation today.

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