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Understanding Wrongful Death: Definitions & Legal Context

When the unthinkable happens, and a life is lost due to the actions or negligence of another, the legal system provides a path for justice through wrongful death claims. These claims are brought forth when a person's death is caused by the wrongful conduct of another party, whether through negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm.

For a case to be considered wrongful death, certain elements must be present, such as a duty of care owed by the defendant to the deceased, a breach of that duty, and a direct causal link between the breach and the death. Understanding these elements is crucial for families seeking closure and compensation for their loss.

Wrongful Death vs. Other Personal Injury Claims

While wrongful death claims share similarities with other personal injury claims, they stand apart in their focus on the losses suffered by the deceased's survivors rather than the victims themselves. These claims often involve compensation for funeral expenses, loss of income, and the emotional distress of the survivors.

Unlike personal injury claims, which seek damages for the injured party's pain and suffering, wrongful death suits emphasize the impact on the family and dependents left behind. This distinction is vital for anyone navigating the aftermath of a loved one's untimely death and considering legal action.

Examples of Accidents that Often Lead to Wrongful Death Cases

Many different types of accidents can result in a wrongful death suit. Below, we provide examples of wrongful death case accidents.

Medical Malpractice-Related Wrongful Death

Medical malpractice refers to instances when a patient suffers injury or harm due to the substandard treatment provided by a doctor, nurse, hospital, or any other healthcare professional, which doesn't meet the generally accepted standards of care. Here are some of the types of incidents that can lead to a negligence-related death:

  • Surgical errors. Medical procedures come with inherent risks, but when a life is lost due to preventable surgical errors or post-operative complications, it may constitute a wrongful death. These tragic cases often involve a breach of the standard of care expected from healthcare professionals. Whether it's an error in judgment during surgery or inadequate post-surgery monitoring, the consequences can be fatal.
  • Misdiagnosis. Another heart-wrenching scenario is when a healthcare provider's misdiagnosis or delayed treatment leads to a patient's untimely death. These cases hinge on proving that a competent medical professional would have correctly diagnosed or treated the patient in a timely manner, thereby preventing the death.

Workplace & Occupational Hazards

Workplaces can be dangerous based on the specific type of work and working conditions. However, negligence can also be a contributing factor in certain cases, such as:

  • Exposure to harmful chemicals. Work environments, especially those involving the use of harmful substances or heavy equipment, can present significant risks. If an employee loses their life due to an industrial mishap or prolonged exposure to toxic materials, their loved ones may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases often involve a failure to adhere to safety protocols or provide adequate protective equipment. Industries such as manufacturing, mining, and chemical processing frequently face scrutiny for their safety practices, as the consequences of negligence can be fatal.
  • Construction site dangers. Construction sites are notoriously dangerous, and fatalities can occur due to a variety of causes, including falls, equipment accidents, and structural collapses. These incidents often result from violations of safety regulations or inadequate safety measures.
  • Workplace crime incident. If a company does not have security measures in place, they risk their employees' lives and overall safety.

Product Liability

Consumers expect the products they purchase to be safe for use, but when defects lead to fatal accidents, manufacturers may be held liable for wrongful death. These cases can range from faulty automotive parts to unsafe children's toys, and they often result in product recalls and legal action.

As an example, people are bringing forward a wrongful death and product liability case against Polaris Industries, a snowmobiles and motorcycles manufacturer. The estate of David James McLeod is pursuing this case because Mr. McLeod died after being thrown out of a rolling defective vehicle.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

The loss of life resulting from car, truck, or motorcycle accidents is often due to preventable factors such as distracted driving, driving under the influence, or reckless behavior. Pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk of sustaining fatal injuries when involved in a collision with a motor vehicle.

The rise in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities is a troubling trend, particularly in urban areas where traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure pose significant risks. These wrongful death cases often revolve around the duty of care that drivers owe to more vulnerable road users.

Premises Liability Accidents

Premises liability cases are a type of personal injury lawsuit where an individual seeks compensation for injuries sustained on someone else's property. The basis for these cases is negligence; the property owner (or party responsible for the property) must have failed in their duty to keep the premises safe.

Examples of premises liability cases that can lead to a wrongful death suit include:

  • Slip or trip and fall accidents. Slip and fall accidents may seem minor, but they can have deadly consequences, especially for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions. Commercial properties, in particular, have a responsibility to maintain safe premises for visitors. When a slip and fall accident on someone else's property leads to a fatality, it can give rise to a wrongful death claim.
  • Inadequate security. Owners of properties are obligated to implement sufficient security protocols to shield visitors from predictable criminal activities. If a fatality transpires as a result of a preventable criminal act, owing to inadequate security, it could give rise to a lawsuit for wrongful death under the law of premises liability. These cases can involve assaults, robberies, or other violent crimes that result in a loss of life.

Dedicated Legal Counsel

If you or someone you know has suffered the devastating loss of a loved one due to negligence or recklessness, Zayas Law Firm is here to provide compassionate legal counsel. Our experienced team understands the complexities of wrongful death claims and is committed to helping families navigate these challenging times with dignity and respect.

Call (860) 854-9156 to request a case consultation.

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