In a wrongful death claim, the family or loved ones of the deceased seek financial damages as compensation for a wrong committed that has resulted in the death of the victim. Wrongful death actions are the civil equivalent to criminal offense charges, and in general, the purpose of such cases is to compensate the survivors for such damages as loss of income, loss of companionship or loss of enjoyment of life.
It is because the standard of proof for establishing responsibility is much higher in a criminal case that wrongful death claims are most often pursued in civil court. Criminal cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but in a civil trial, proof of responsibility for the death of another is based rather upon a preponderance of the evidence.
Required elements to prove negligence or intent to harm
A wrongful death suit will be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. The elements required to prove a wrongful death claim are:
- the death of a person
- the negligence or intent to harm of another person or entity as the cause
- the financial injury suffered by the family as a result of the death
- the appointment of a personal representative for the estate of the decedent
Claims may arise out of a number of circumstances, including vehicular accidents, occupational injury and death, bad faith health or life insurance denials, or medical malpractice.
Wrongful death claims in Washington, D.C.
In wrongful death claims in Washington, D.C., damages are awarded to various family members according to the court’s determination of the percentage of loss to each member, and will also include reasonable expenses for last illness and burial. The estate of the decedent may also file a survival action as a companion claim that will seek compensation for damages leading up to death, such as for a victim’s pain and suffering. The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is within two years of death of the injured party.
The loss of a loved one can be emotionally as well as financially devastating for the surviving family. If the victim underwent extensive medical procedures, rehabilitative actions or prolonged illness before death, the family may have difficulty recouping the losses from insurance companies. Washington, D.C. residents can turn to experienced and skillful legal representation to provide strong remedies that will address their right to compensation for the injury committed.