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Proving negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit

Those who have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident or as the result of medical malpractice can find themselves overwhelmed by their emotions and their financial losses. While they try to cope with the tragedy, the financial damage can take hold, throwing them into another realm of stress and depression. Although nothing can bring a lost loved one back, filing a wrongful death lawsuit may lead to the recovery of compensation, which could allow a surviving family to focus on moving forward in life with some degree of financial stability.

In order to succeed on a wrongful death claim, though, a surviving family will need to meet certain legal elements. Looking at the big picture, a plaintiff has to show the defendant was negligent and that negligence caused the victim's death. But how is negligence shown?

First, it must be shown that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. In the medical malpractice context, this duty can arise when the doctor-patient relationship is formed. Motorists automatically owe all others on the road a duty of care to drive safely. Second, a plaintiff must show that the defendant breached that duty of care. Next, the breach must have actually caused the victim's harm, and that harm must be shown to have caused compensable damage.

Each of these elements can be broken down, too, making a wrongful death lawsuit incredibly nuanced. The facts matter when pursuing one of these claims, and one's ability to apply the law to them in a convincing way is critical to one's success. Therefore, those who hope to recover compensation for their damages, including medical expenses, lost wages and funeral costs, may want to speak with a legal professional to determine how best to develop their claim.

Source: FindLaw, "Elements of a Negligence Case," accessed on Dec. 12, 2016

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