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What a wrongful death claim is and how to prove it

Wrongful death refers to a situation in which someone loses their life as a result of the negligence or wrongdoing of another. A wrongful death case may stem from a variety of circumstances including situations involving medical errors, fatal car accidents, hazardous working conditions, or as a result of a crime.

Patient deaths found to have resulted from medical malpractice can occur for a number of reasons. Among two of the most common ones, there are medical misdiagnoses and botched surgeries.

Drivers or pedestrians being struck by reckless drivers is another commonly cited reason for surviving family members to file wrongful death lawsuits. Victim having been killed by another during the commission of a crime as well as employee death resulting from an unsafe work environment round out the list.

When incidents like these happen, the decedent's surviving relatives may sue for damages. This can happen regardless of whether the alleged responsible party was convicted for the death or not.

Unlike a criminal trial, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil trial, the standard of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence. What this means, is that if the person is found to be more likely than not responsible for the decedent's death, then they will be held liable under civil law.

There are several standard elements required to be present to be able to file and successfully prove a wrongful death lawsuit. The first, and most obvious criterion is that the loss of life must be that of a human being. Second, the death must have been caused by someone's negligence or with the intent to inflict harm.

Next, evidence produced must suggests that, because of the death of the person, the surviving relatives have been negatively impacted financially. It's important to note that, in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, an administrator of the decedent's estate must have already been appointed at the time it is filed.

Surviving family members are entitled solely to monetary damages. Such settlements are intended to cover costs such as funeral expenses, loss of future inheritance, loss of financial support, as well as loss of other services the deceased formerly provided.

If someone you know has been the victim of an incident not all that different from one of the many described above, an Illinois wrongful death attorney can provide advice and guidance in your legal matter.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed March 03, 2017

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