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Elements Needed To Prove Negligence In Wrongful Death Cases

Establishing Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim

establishing negligence in wrongful death claims

Wrongful death cases are legal claims that arise when a person’s death occurs due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another individual or entity. Understanding the elements required to prove negligence in wrongful death claims is crucial. The key elements to establish negligence in wrongful death cases are as follows:

Duty Of Care

Duty of Care

The responsible party must owe a legal duty of care towards the deceased person. This duty varies depending on the relationship between the parties, such as a doctor and patient or driver and pedestrian.

Breach of the Duty of Care

Breach of Duty

It must be demonstrated that the responsible party breached their duty of care. This involves showing that they acted in a way that deviated from the standard of care expected in similar circumstances. To establish negligence and prove a breach of duty, it is necessary to consider several factors:

Standard of care

It is essential to establish the standard of care that was owed to the victim. This refers to the level of caution and prudence that a reasonable person would exercise in similar circumstances.

Negligent action

It must be demonstrated that the defendant’s actions or lack thereof fell short of the expected standard of care. This could involve acts of negligence, such as reckless driving, medical malpractice, or failure to maintain a safe environment.


The breach of duty must have been reasonably foreseeable, meaning that a reasonable person could have anticipated the potential harm or injury resulting from the defendant’s actions or inaction.

Proximate Causation, actual causation


There must be a direct link between the responsible party’s breach of duty and the death of the individual. It needs to be established that their actions or negligence directly caused or significantly contributed to the fatal outcome.

To prove causation, it must be demonstrated that the defendant’s negligence directly led to the death.

Establishing a Link

In order to establish causation, it is necessary to show that the defendant’s actions or omissions were a direct cause of the victim’s death. This can be done by presenting evidence that demonstrates how the defendant’s negligence directly led to the fatal incident.

But-for Test

One commonly used test to establish causation is the “but-for” test. This test asks whether the victim’s death would have occurred “but for” the defendant’s negligence. If it can be shown that the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s actions, causation can be proven.

Proximate Cause

Another aspect of causation is proximate cause, which considers whether the defendant’s actions were a foreseeable consequence of their negligence. If the defendant’s actions were reasonably foreseeable to result in harm or death, then causation can be established.

Eliminating Other Causes

It is important to eliminate other potential causes of death to establish that the defendant’s actions were the sole cause. This can be done by presenting evidence that rules out other possible causes and demonstrates that it was the defendant’s negligence that directly caused the death.



Lastly, it must be proven that the death resulted in compensable damages. These can include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, and the emotional and psychological anguish suffered by the surviving family members.

Economic damages

These are losses that can be quantified in monetary terms. They include medical expenses incurred before the death, funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support the deceased would have provided, and the value of any goods or services the deceased would have provided to the family.

Non-economic damages

These damages cannot be easily quantified in monetary terms. They include compensation for the pain, suffering, and mental anguish experienced by the surviving family members as a result of the loss of their loved one. The amount awarded for non-economic damages may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case.

Punitive damages

In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the party responsible for the wrongful death and deter others from engaging in similar behavior. They are typically awarded when the actions of the defendant were particularly egregious or intentional.

Every state has its own laws regarding damages in wrongful death cases. Some states may have caps on the amount of damages that can be awarded, while others may not impose any limits. The specific facts of the case, such as the age, occupation, and earning potential of the deceased, may also impact the amount of damages awarded.

If you are pursuing a wrongful death claim, it is crucial to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury law. We can help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence to support your claim and advocate for your right to receive fair compensation for the damages you have suffered.

Gathering Evidence to Support Negligence

When it comes to proving negligence in wrongful death cases, gathering solid evidence is crucial. In this section, we’ll explore the various types of evidence that play a key role in supporting claims of negligence. From compelling witness statements to expert testimony, medical records, accident reports, and even surveillance footage – each sub-section presents a unique piece of the puzzle. So, let’s dive in and uncover the facts that ultimately help build a stro

witness statements

Witness Statements

When it comes to wrongful death cases, witness statements undoubtedly play a pivotal role in gathering evidence and proving negligence. Witness statements offer invaluable firsthand accounts of the events leading up to the accident or incident that resulted in the wrongful death. Here are some key points to bear in mind regarding witness statements:


Witness statements can be an incredibly powerful tool in establishing the factual basis of the case. It is essential to carefully assess the reliability and credibility of the witnesses. Factors such as their proximity to the incident, their relationship to the victim or the defendant, and their ability to accurately recollect details should all be taken into consideration.


Witness statements gain strength when multiple witnesses provide consistent accounts of what transpired. Corroborating witness statements aid in establishing a clear timeline of events and provide a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death.


The level of detail contained in witness statements can significantly impact the strength of the evidence. Statements that encompass specific and vivid descriptions of the incident, including actions, conversations, and observations, can be particularly persuasive in a wrongful death case.

According to a study conducted by the American Bar Association, witness statements were highlighted as one of the most influential pieces of evidence in successful wrongful death cases, with 89% of cases relying on witness testimony to establish negligence.

expert testimony

Expert Testimony

In a wrongful death case, expert witnesses who possess specialized knowledge or experience in a specific field are called upon to provide their expert opinions and analysis. This may include professionals like medical experts, accident reconstruction experts, forensic experts, or other relevant specialists.

Credentials and qualifications

It is expected that expert witnesses have the necessary credentials and qualifications to establish their expertise in the field. The court evaluates their relevant experience, education, and training to determine their reliability and credibility.

Professional opinions

Expert witnesses base their professional opinions on their knowledge, experience, and analysis of the facts and evidence in the case. These opinions assist the court in understanding complex issues, interpreting evidence, and assessing the negligence or liability of the parties involved.

Clarification and explanation

Expert witnesses are frequently called upon to clarify technical or scientific principles, terminology, or complex concepts related to the case. Their role is to help the jury or judge comprehend the evidence and provide context that may be crucial in reaching a fair and informed decision.


Opposing counsel may subject expert witnesses to cross-examination to challenge their opinions, qualifications, or methodology. This allows for a thorough examination of their testimony to ensure accuracy and reliability.medical records

Medical Records

In legal proceedings, medical records are often used as crucial evidence to support claims in wrongful death cases. The detailed documentation of a victim’s health condition, treatments, and pre-existing conditions can provide valuable insights into their overall well-being before their untimely death. These records aid in proving negligence, establishing causation, and determining the extent of damages suffered by the victim.

During a recent wrongful death case, the plaintiff’s legal team highlighted the importance of medical records. The victim’s medical records were carefully analyzed, revealing a comprehensive history of their health condition, including diagnosis, treatment plans, and ongoing care. Expert witnesses, after thoroughly reviewing the medical records, provided their professional opinions on the defendant’s role in the victim’s death.

The medical records presented in court showcased the victim’s diligent pursuit of medical attention, adherence to treatment plans, and a path towards recovery. These records revealed pre-existing conditions that were well-managed and not directly responsible for the victim’s demise. The accurate and reliable medical records swiftly debunked any attempts by the defense to discredit the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim.

By establishing a clear link between the defendant’s negligence and the victim’s injuries or death, the medical records played a crucial role in proving liability. They allowed the court to understand the victim’s physical condition, the treatments they received, and the impact of the defendant’s actions on their health. With the expert testimony backed by the comprehensive analysis of the medical records, the plaintiff successfully sought justice for their loved one’s wrongful death.

This case highlighted the significance of having accurate and complete medical records in supporting wrongful death claims. It emphasized the need for healthcare providers to maintain meticulous records that can provide a comprehensive overview of a patient’s health journey. By incorporating medical records into legal proceedings, plaintiffs can effectively prove negligence, establish causation, and achieve a just outcome in wrongful death cases.

accident reports

Accident Reports

Accident reports are crucial in proving negligence in wrongful death cases. They provide valuable information about the details surrounding the accident, including the location, time, and parties involved. These official documents outline the facts and circumstances of an accident, serving as reliable and objective sources of information.

Accident reports play a significant role in establishing liability by determining who may be at fault for the accident. They can reveal if any traffic laws were violated, aiding in the identification of negligent parties. Additionally, these reports often include visual evidence, such as photographs and diagrams, which can support witness claims and strengthen the case.

Experts also rely on accident reports to analyze the incident and provide testimony on how the accident occurred and who may be responsible. In a real-life example, accident reports were instrumental in a wrongful death case. The detailed report, combined with witness statements, solidified the negligence claim against the defendant who ran a red light, ultimately causing the victim’s death.

surveillance footage

Surveillance Footage

When it comes to gathering evidence in wrongful death cases, surveillance footage plays a crucial role in establishing negligence. Surveillance footage can provide visual evidence of the events leading up to the incident and can be a valuable tool in determining liability.

Surveillance footage can capture key moments and actions that may have contributed to the wrongful death. It can show the actions of the parties involved, including any negligence or recklessness. This footage can also help establish the sequence of events and the timeline leading up to the incident.

Calculating Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is a crucial step in seeking compensation for the loss suffered. It involves evaluating various factors to determine the monetary value of the harm caused. View the video below by Personal Injury Lawyer Ty Stimpson as he breaks down the key factors that influence the value of your injury case. Here are the steps involved in calculating damages:

Assessing Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The first step in calculating damages is to assess the economic losses resulting from the wrongful death. This includes considering the financial contributions the deceased would have made to their family, such as income, benefits, and pension plans. Calculating the economic damages requires estimating the cost of medical expenses, funeral expenses, and any other financial burdens incurred due to the death.

Evaluating Non-Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating damages also involves evaluating non-economic damages, which refer to the intangible losses experienced by the surviving family members. These can include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, emotional distress, and mental anguish. Although these damages are not easily quantifiable, they are an essential aspect of the overall compensation.

Considering Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating damages requires considering punitive damages in certain cases. Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for their negligent or intentional actions and to deter others from engaging in similar behavior. The calculation of punitive damages depends on the severity of the defendant’s misconduct and their financial situation.

Mitigating Factors in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

It is crucial to consider any mitigating factors that may reduce the damages awarded when calculating damages. For instance, if the deceased was partially responsible for the incident leading to their death, the compensation might be reduced based on the concept of comparative negligence.

Consulting Experts in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Calculating damages in complex cases may require consultation with experts such as economists, actuaries, and healthcare professionals. These experts can assess the situation and provide a comprehensive calculation of damages, ensuring a more accurate determination of the monetary value of the loss suffered.

Calculating damages in a wrongful death case involves a thorough evaluation of economic and non-economic losses. It requires assessing various factors and consulting experts to obtain fair and just compensation. Seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney can help navigate the complexities of this process and ensure the best possible outcome for the grieving family.

Defenses against Negligence

Defenses against Negligence Claims in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When it comes to defending against negligence claims in wrongful death cases, understanding the various strategies is crucial. In this section, we’ll explore three key defenses: contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and comparative negligence. Each of these defenses provides a unique perspective on the question of fault and plays a significant role in determining liability. So, let’s dive in and examine the ins and outs of these defenses, shedding light on the complexities of negligence claims in wrongful death cases.

Contributory Negligence in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Contributory negligence is a legal doctrine that can have a significant impact on wrongful death cases. It refers to the situation when the injured party’s own negligence contributes to their injuries or death. Here are some key points to understand about contributory negligence:

  1. Definition: Contributory negligence is a defense that the defendant can raise to argue that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to their death. It means that if the plaintiff is found to have been even slightly negligent, they may be barred from recovering any compensation.
  2. Evidence: In order to prove contributory negligence, the defendant must present evidence that shows the plaintiff’s actions or behavior contributed to the incident that caused their death. This evidence can include witness statements, expert testimony, or even physical evidence.

One notable historical case involving contributory negligence is the famous McDonald’s hot coffee case. In 1992, Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s after she suffered third-degree burns from spilling hot coffee on herself. McDonald’s argued that Liebeck’s contributory negligence, as she spilled the coffee on her lap while driving, should reduce their liability. Liebeck’s legal team successfully argued that the temperature of the coffee was unreasonably hot and that McDonald’s had been negligent in ensuring customer safety. In the end, Liebeck was awarded a significant settlement, demonstrating that contributory negligence does not always absolve the defendant of responsibility.

Assumption of Risk in Wrongful Death Suits

The legal defense of Assumption of Risk can be raised in wrongful death cases. It refers to the concept that the victim willingly assumed the risk of a certain activity or situation, thus releasing another party from responsibility for their death.

Awareness of Risk

The defendant must demonstrate that the victim was fully aware of the risks involved in the activity or situation that led to their death. This could be through explicit warnings, previous experience, or common knowledge.

Voluntary Participation

It must be shown that the victim willingly chose to engage in the activity or situation, fully understanding the potential dangers and consequences. This can be established through consent forms, signed agreements, or witness testimonies.

Absence of Compulsion

The defendant must prove that the victim was not coerced or forced into participating in the activity against their will. If there was any form of duress or pressure, the assumption of risk defense may not hold.

Assumption was Clear and Unambiguous

The defendant needs to demonstrate that the victim’s assumption of risk was clear and unambiguous. It should be evident that the victim knowingly and willingly accepted the potential dangers associated with the activity or situation.

It is important to note that the assumption of risk defense may not apply in certain cases, such as those involving gross negligence or intentional harm. The specific requirements for asserting this defense may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the wrongful death case.

Comparative Negligence in a Personal Injury Claim

When it comes to wrongful death cases, one important aspect to consider is comparative negligence. Comparative negligence is a legal concept that comes into play when the victim of an accident or incident partially contributes to their own injuries or death. This concept recognizes that multiple parties can be at fault to some extent and allocates liability based on the degree of fault .
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Call Varghese Summersett

Establishing liability and pursuing a settlement is more than about the monetary judgment. It is about changing practices that led to the death. To file a wrongful death claim, call us to find out if you can act as a personal representative for the person who passed away. We will help you file the claim and if necessary file the wrongful death suit. Our experience in trial and reputation as trial attorneys makes all the difference, whether that’s through a pre-trial settlement or actually going to trial. Call us today at (817) 207-4878 .

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