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Wrongful Death Action

A wrongful death action accuses a defendant of causing the death of another person. The deceased person is called a decedent. The lawsuit may claim that either the defendant’s negligence or actions caused the death of the decedent. The defendant may be a person or another entity, such as a corporation. Generally speaking, the decedent’s estate and/or surviving family members can file a wrongful death action, though laws regarding who can file vary state to state.

  • In every state, a spouse may file a wrongful death action.
  • Parents of minor children can file a wrongful death case if the minor is the decedent.
  • Minor children can receive compensation for the death of a parent.
  • Laws differ on whether adult children, adult siblings or extended relatives can file suit on behalf of a parent.
  • Some states allow an unmarried partner to file a wrongful death claim if he or she can show financial dependence on the decedent.

When Is a Wrongful Death Action Filed?

A wrongful death action may be filed anytime the actions of a defendant may have caused the death of a decedent. This type of lawsuit can grow out of almost any kind of personal injury that results in a fatality. Here are a few situations where a wrongful death suit may be an option.

  • If a defendant intentionally kills a victim, then a civil case for wrongful death may be appropriate. It’s important to understand that this is different from any criminal charges the defendant may face. He or she may be facing both a criminal and a civil proceeding for the same death.
  • If a victim dies as a result of medical malpractice, a wrongful death suit may be filed against the medical providers. For example, if a doctor is careless and doesn’t perform a thorough exam and misses signs of cancer, and the patient later dies from it, the decedent’s family may have grounds for a wrongful death suit against the doctor.
  • If a victim dies in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, the decedent’s heirs may seek compensation from the defendant.

One exception is a death that occurs in the workplace. Those cases must proceed through the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Where Can I Get Help With a Wrongful Death Action?

If you lost a loved one due to the actions or negligence of another, you should seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights. An experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer in Trenton, NJ can walk you through the process step by step.


Thanks to Davis & Brusca for their insight into personal injury claims and wrongful death action.