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Last Modified: December 23, 2022

Where does the Burden of Proof Lie in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Published on December 13, 2012 • Last updated December 23, 2022 by Ken Christensen
Topics: Wrongful Death

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There are many types of wrongful death claims. The evidence needed to prove negligence can vary depending on how the death was caused. The primary types of wrongful death claims include automotive, medical error, workplace, and product-related.

Automotive Wrongful Death

Not all traffic accidents that result in death can be considered for a wrongful death claim. These accidents, although not any less tragic, are just that—accidents. Unfortunately, many car accidents are caused by gross negligence or irresponsible behavior. For example, a fatal accident caused by someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is clearly a case of negligence. Automotive wrongful death claims are not limited to drugs and alcohol, however. If a family can establish that the driver was behaving in a way that was not suitable for a reasonable person it can be considered a wrongful death.

Medical Error Wrongful Death

Medical malpractice is also a very common cause of wrongful death. This does not mean, however, that just because a family member died during surgery or while being treated by a doctor that malpractice has occurred. A wrongful death suit will be likely to win only if the family, and their attorney, can prove that the doctor, nurse, or any healthcare provider, acted negligently. This typically means that the death must be caused due to the wrong medicine being prescribed or a failure to diagnose a condition correctly. If this has occurred then the family must prove that the doctor had the necessary medical knowledge but failed to use it.

Workplace Wrongful Death

A death in the workplace can be considered a wrongful death if the family can prove that the employer did not take the necessary safety measures in the workplace. This type of wrongful death claim is most common for deaths that occur in a factory or warehouse. In an attempt to both prevent workplace deaths and establish liability for any deaths that may occur, extensive laws have been passed to regulate the safety guidelines in construction sites, offshore oil rigs, and places that work with dangerous chemicals.

Product-Related Wrongful Death

A death caused by the intended use of a consumer product is common ground for making a wrongful death claim. If the product was being used in some way other than what the manufacturer intended, however, the claim is not likely to be validated. An infamous example of this is a 2004 Darwin Award winner who bought a lava lamp. Becoming impatient with the slow healing process, the man put the lava lamp on the stove. The lamp quickly became hot and then exploded, killing the man. In this instance, the family is unlikely to receive any compensation from the manufacturer of the lava lamp because the manufacturer never intended anyone to use their product in such a reckless way. Unintentionally turning a lava lamp into a homemade bomb is a lot different, however, from someone being killed when the brake pads they purchased did not function as they were designed to. In this instance, the family’s wrongful death claim is almost guaranteed to be upheld.

When a family member dies in a way that may be due to someone else’s negligence an attorney should be contacted. Attorneys specialize in compiling the kind of evidence that will prove that someone has behaved in a negligent or irresponsible manner. They often do this by compiling police reports, doctors’ opinions, eye-witness testimonies and anything else that they find may be valuable in securing the compensation a claim warrants.

After establishing the validity of a wrongful death claim an attorney will then determine what the claim is worth. The value of a claim takes into account 3 factors: medical expenses, funeral expense, and loss of income.

Medical expenses

Many deaths caused by a negligent party do not result in the immediate death of the victim. In some instances, the deceased may have spent weeks in the hospital before the injuries sustained in the accident eventually resulted in his/her death. If this happens there are almost always expensive medical bills that need to be paid.

Funeral expenses

The costs of funerals and burials are surprisingly high. The plot in the cemetery needs to be purchased and the funeral services must be paid for. The National Funeral Directors Association reports that the average cost of a regular adult funeral is $7,323. This includes the price of embalming, viewing, and the casket. If someone is guilty of causing a wrongful death they may also be liable to pay all of these expenses.

Loss of income

The estimated loss of income can be difficult to ascertain but as a general rule dependent children that have lost one or both parents are likely to receive a lot more in compensation than an adult child that loses an elderly parent. The loss of income is calculated by estimating how much the deceased person would have continued to earn and also how much that person would have contributed to their family members.

Because there is so much to consider in the event of a wrongful death an experienced attorney with experience handling wrongful death cases is recommended. If you and your family have recently suffered the loss of a family member because of someone’s negligence we ask that you call the lawyers at Good Guys Injury Law at (801) 506-0800. We express our deepest sorrow for your loss and we wish to help you receive the compensation that will make this difficult time a little easier.

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