Wrongful Death: Injured
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Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death claims are usually brought by the estate of a person who was killed due to fault of another. The most common plaintiffs are the surviving spouse or the children of the deceased. The wrongful death laws differ from state to state. Generally, the elements are the same and include a death of a human being which was caused either by negligence or the intent to harm. The surviving family members usually need to be suffering a monetary injury as a result of the death. A wrongful death lawsuit often ties in with other personal injury lawsuits including vehicle accidents or medical malpractice.


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Accidents happen, but sometimes they happen because of someone's negligence. And when someone's negligence leads to another person's death, family and loved ones of the deceased person may file what are known as wrongful death lawsuits.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be complicated, and there are several limiting factors when it comes to filing them. So here are five important questions (and answers) regarding wrongful death claims from our archives:

Scarlett Lewis, Neil Heslin, and Leonard Pozner, the parents of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner, offered to settle their lawsuit against the town of Newtown over the children's deaths in a horrific school shooting in 2012. The parents had sued the town, claiming Sandy Hook Elementary School's security plan was inadequate. Now the parents are offering to accept an $11 million settlement in return for dropping all of their legal claims against the city.

Newtown has yet to accept the settlement offer, but let's take a closer look at what it could mean.

Who's Liable for a Prescription Drug Overdose?

Ever since Prince died of a drug overdose, questions have been raised about drug overdose liability. Prince's deadly dosage was self-administered and his death has been ruled accidental, but that doesn't mean no one will be blamed for it, or that there is no one to sue in some overdose cases.

Let's consider liability for overdoses involving prescription drugs, like that of the legendary musician.

Cannabis Candy Maker Faces First Pot Wrongful Death Suit

Last month, the first ever wrongful death lawsuit was filed against a maker of marijuana edibles, blaming a cannabis candy for a husband's shooting of his wife. The claim is being called a long shot by legal experts, reports the Los Angeles Times. But it is also indicative of what is likely to come as marijuana transitions from an illegal drug to legitimacy. Let's consider it.

In an unexpected, if not unprecedented, criminal trial, the former CEO of Massey Energy Company Don Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison on conspiracy charges for violating federal mine safety laws.

As Senator Joe Manchin III, who was the governor of West Virginia when an explosion in a Massey Energy-owned Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners in 2010, told The New York Times, “I never heard of anyone thinking that that could happen or would happen, because it had never happened before.”

Drug overdoses can be anything from simple mistakes to suicide attempts and they can have tragic consequences. In some cases those consequences can extend to dealers, friends, or family of the person who overdoses. Some states have begun prosecuting drug dealers with murder if a customer overdoses, and others are bypassing Good Samaritan protections and charging friends who dial 911 for overdosing friends with drug crimes.

And beyond possible criminal charges, could you be sued if you gave someone drugs that led to a deadly overdose? Or if someone overdoses in your house? Here’s a look at civil liability for drug overdoses.

How to Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Case

If you lost a loved one due to the negligence or deliberate misconduct of another, you can sue for wrongful death. To succeed in such a claim you have to prove that the death was caused by another person’s action or inaction and that there was no unforeseeable intervening cause.

Proving fault is not always straightforward, and of course there are defenses to claims of negligence. But there are certainly cases when a defendant is found guilty of wrongful death, despite being found not guilty in a criminal trial, as most famously illustrated by OJ Simpson. Let’s examine the elements of a wrongful death claim.

Fatal Injury: Wrongful Death for Food Poisoning

It is never fun to imagine our loved ones leaving us forever and there is no legal victory that can make up for the pain of a death, especially a wrongful one. That said, if a family loses a member due to food poisoning, a wrongful death claim is available to some members of the clan.

Food poisoning is very common, as are injury lawsuits associated with this particular harm. Fortunately, however, fatal food poisoning is much more rare. Let's look at wrongful death lawsuits in this context, like the recently-settled case against a California restaurant that was blamed for serving contaminated scallops that allegedly led to a death in 2014.

What Damages Are Awarded in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

Unlike other lawsuits, wrongful death claims are inevitably made on behalf of another. As the name indicates, the suit is based on a claim that the deceased died due to the defendant’s negligence, or worse.

There are two general categories of damages awarded in such lawsuits, pecuniary and punitive. Pecuniary, or financial, damages attempt to calculate the financial value of a particular life while punitive damages serve as a punishment to the defendant. Let’s take a look at both types here.

A suicide is a tragedy, and after someone takes their own life, we look for reasons why. Most often, those reasons fall to the person’s own unhappiness or mental illness. But that is not always the case. In some situations, it appears that a person has been pushed to commit suicide, or become more suicide-prone than he or she normally would be.

In these cases, could someone else be liable for a person’s suicide? And are there legal claims that cover these scenarios?