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Understand the purpose of a wrongful death claim

A wrongful death is one that wouldn't have occurred except for the negligent or reckless actions of another person. Wrongful death claims can be filed against individuals, hospitals, businesses and even the government.

A lot of people, however, don't quite understand the purpose of a wrongful death claim. Too often, they've fallen for the idea that a wrongful death claim is nothing more than a chance to make some money off the death of a relative.

In reality, wrongful death claims serve an important purpose in our legal system. Generally, only certain people -- all close family members of the deceased -- can file a wrongful death claim. Sometimes a representative of the deceased's estate will file so that any award can be divided among the deceased's heirs. The money that comes from a wrongful death claim is often dearly needed by the survivors to pay for things like:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral costs
  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits, including health care
  • Debts the deceased held

These are often not easily replaceable in the lives of the survivors, particularly when the deceased was a family's main provider. Those losses are on top of things like the companionship lost by a spouse, the guidance a child loses and the services an aging parent can't rely on in the future.

In addition, a wrongful death claim does something else that's very important: It allows survivors to find a way to hold the people who were negligent accountable for their actions. Since wrongful death claims can be pressed in cases where criminal charges don't apply, that may be the only real way that justice can be obtained.

A wrongful death claim won't bring back the deceased or ease your heartbreak. However, it can help you move forward knowing that the people responsible have been made to pay for their actions. It can also provide you the financial security your loved one would have wanted you to have.

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