What is wrongful death?
A wrongful death lawsuit entails a claim brought against a person who can be held liable for a death, through negligence, intentional attack, manslaughter, murder, or other means. The claim is brought in a civil action (as opposed to a criminal charge for murder, homicide, etc.) and is usually brought by close relatives of the deceased. To succeed on a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (i.e., the close relatives of the deceased) must generally prove four elements: 1) that the death was caused - in whole or part - by the actions of the defendant; 2) the defendant was negligent or otherwise liable for the death; 3) there is a surviving spouse or family member to collect damages; and 4) monetary damages actually resulted from the death (examples include expenses associated with the death, future earnings capacity, loss of benefits because of the death, loss of inheritance, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages).
Furthermore, although an immediate family members or spouses (or in some cases, a legal dependent or beneficiary) can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, such lawsuits cannot be brought against other family members. Be warned, furthermore, that wrongful death lawsuits must be brought within the statutes of limitations, which differ by state.