How do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work?

Posted on August 18, 2022 at 12:16 PM by The Biker Lawyers


What is wrongful death?

If a person dies as the result of another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act, then that family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Examples may include a car accidenttruck accidentmotorcycle crash, or the defendant’s involvement in criminal activity.

Wrongful death is a type of personal injury claim in which a judge or jury determines that the deceased victim’s estate should be compensated for financial losses caused by their untimely death.

Additionally, the court may order reparations for emotional damages sustained by those left behind. The best way to understand how wrongful death lawsuits work is to learn about each stage of this complex process:

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

If a person’s death is caused by the negligence or misconduct of another, then the surviving family members have a right to sue for wrongful death.

If a person’s death is caused by the negligence or misconduct of another, then the family members have a right to sue for wrongful death. Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought by:

  • spouses;
  • parents;
  • children; or
  • siblings.

What are the key elements in a wrongful death case?


The main element of a wrongful death case is that the defendant acted negligently, recklessly or intentionally, thereby causing someone’s death.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the main element is that the defendant acted negligently, recklessly or intentionally, thereby causing someone’s death. This means that you must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person died because of the defendant’s actions or inactions.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by parents and spouses on behalf of children who are under 18 years old at the time of death; children over 18 but still considered dependents by their parents; and other family members if they were dependent on the deceased for support.

Who can sue for wrongful death?

Parents, spouses, and children are allowed to sue for wrongful death. In some cases, other family members may be allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you are the child of a deceased person, you are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is true even if your parent was not your natural parent. For example, if you were adopted and lost an adoptive parent, you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit against the person who caused their death.

In some cases, other family members or close friends may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased individual’s estate as well. For example, if two people were married but living separately at the time they died in an accident together while sailing on vacation in a rented boat, each spouse could sue for damages related to their relationship with each other (such as loss of companionship).

How hard is it to prove wrongful death?

It can be challenging to prove that the act or omission of another party caused a person’s death. Attorneys must know how to investigate and gather evidence to build strong cases.

In order for a wrongful death lawsuit to be successful, an attorney must prove that the defendant’s act or omission caused the death. The attorney must also prove that this act or omission was the proximate cause of the victim’s death. Finally, they must show that it was the legal cause of their client’s loved one’s demise—meaning that it would have been possible to avoid such an outcome by taking reasonable measures to prevent harm.

There are many ways parties can be held liable for a fatal accident:

  • Negligence: This is when someone failed to exercise due care in performing their duties and thereby caused harm to another person or property;
  • Reckless behavior: This involves doing something you know has a high risk of causing injury;
  • Intentional conduct (or assault): If someone intended to cause harm but did not do so recklessly, they could still face criminal charges; and/or
  • Strict liability (product liability): If a product causes harm even though there was no human error involved in its production, then manufacturers may be held responsible for any resulting injuries or deaths

What happens if you win a wrongful death case?

If a claim is successful, the defendant will be responsible for paying damages awarded by a judge or jury.

It is important that families work with an attorney who is familiar with calculating damages in wrongful death cases.
Image breaking down what is considered Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If a wrongful death claim is successful, the defendant will be responsible for paying damages awarded by a judge or jury. Damages are intended to cover the family’s loss of financial support and future earning potential, as well as pain and suffering. The following are some common types of damages that may be awarded:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical bills related to the death
  • Loss of support
  • Loss of accumulations to the estate


Is there a statute of limitations on wrongful death?

States typically impose statutes of limitations on wrongful death claims. These limit the amount of time during which loved ones can file claims. Families who fail to file lawsuits within the allotted time are barred from filing them later.

In most cases, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the loss. However, this time limit varies from state to state, and it can also depend on the type of claim and other factors. For example:

  • In Iowa, a person has three years after the injury or death that caused their loved one’s wrongful death to file a lawsuit.
  • While some states allow parents to sue medical malpractice insurance companies after their child dies from medical error (and not just malpractice), others do not give them this option unless their child has already been awarded damages by a court due to malpractice.
  • The age of your loved one at the time of his or her death may affect how long you have until you run out of options in filing a wrongful death lawsuit as well.
    • For example, if your daughter dies at age 20 but didn’t marry yet before she passed away—or even if she did get married but never had children yet—that could change how long these deadlines apply because certain legal actions like marriage are governed by different rules than other types of personal relationships such as being related by blood or adoption laws between siblings

Why do we need a wrongful death attorney?

To improve your chances of winning compensation for your family member’s wrongful death, you should hire an experienced wrongful death attorney to act as your family’s personal representative.

Hiring a wrongful death lawyer is the first thing you should do if you want to bring your case to court. It’s important to work with someone who has experience handling these kinds of cases, because they know all the ins and outs of what happens in courtrooms and can help prepare your case properly. If you don’t hire an attorney, there’s no guarantee that your loved one will get justice or compensation for their loss.

If you’re seeking compensation for lost wages or medical bills from the person who caused your loved one’s death, then you’ll have to prove that he or she was legally responsible for causing it. This means proving that:

  • the decedent died due to this person’s negligence;
  • this person owed them a duty (like a doctor owes his patient);
  • he breached that duty by acting improperly;
  • and this caused them harm (such as by leaving them at risk of infection).


Wrongful death can be a very emotional issue. It is important that you work with an attorney who not only has experience handling these cases but also understands how to communicate effectively with a grieving family.

Lost a loved one? Ride with us.

The Biker Lawyers’ wrongful death attorneys want to hear your story. We’re ready to answer any questions you may have.

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