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What are the legal elements of a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit comes about when a person is killed as the direct result of another party's negligence. That party could be a person, a company, or an organization (like a government entity).

However, several important elements must be proved to exist in order for a plaintiff to prevail in a wrongful death suit:

-- The incident needs to have involved the death of a human being.

-- Another individual's negligence (or someone's intent on hurting another person) must have caused the death.

-- There needs to be a surviving family member who is qualified to make a wrongful death claim, and that family member must have suffered a monetary loss due to the death.

-- A personal representative must have been appointed for the deceased person.

When plaintiffs can prove the above, they may be able to prevail in their wrongful death lawsuits and receive financial compensation for the death of their loved ones. Some of the most common accidents and circumstances that result in successful wrongful death lawsuits include medical errors and medical malpractice; car, bicycle, pedestrian, and airplane accidents; criminal behavior and occupational exposure.

No amount of litigation or favorable monetary awards will ever right the wrong of an unnecessary death caused by someone else's negligence. However, financial compensation is the only way the court system in California and the rest of the country has of compensating suffering family members.

The process of going through with a wrongful death action has more implications than just financial justice. Family members may also obtain a sense of closure from the proceedings.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed July 29, 2016

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