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Wrongful Death FAQs

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February 21, 2024

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

When an individual causes the death of another due to their actions, whether through an intentional act or the result of negligence, then the family members of the deceased may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the person who caused their loved one’s death. 

What is a survival claim?

Following the death of a loved one, a family member can also file for a survival claim, which is different from a wrongful death action. In a survival claim, damages are awarded based on what the deceased individual would have received had they not died. When determining damages in a survival claim, the pain and suffering of the victim is considered—in addition to medical costs and wage loss, among other potential damages.

Who may sue for wrongful death?

Under Delaware law, a parent, sibling, child, or spouse of a deceased family member may file a wrongful death claim. If no spouse, parent, child, or sibling has survived the deceased person, a wrongful death claim may be filed by any person related to the deceased by blood or marriage.

Who can you sue for wrongful death?

Under Delaware law, an eligible party may sue the individual whose intentional or negligent act caused the death of another person. If the individual who caused the death dies before an action takes place, then an action can be taken against the responsible party’s personal representative. 

Is wrongful death hard to prove?

Wrongful death claims can be brought for a negligent act, an intentional act including a crime, and medical malpractice. The burden of proof in a wrongful death claim is the same as in other personal injury claims, but the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim is a surviving family member rather than the injured person. 

If the death was caused by a negligent act, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, that they breached this duty, and that the breach caused damages. If the plaintiff claims the death was caused by an intentional act, they will also need to prove that the defendant intended the action that caused the death.

What are examples of wrongful death?

If an individual was driving too fast, went through a stop sign, and hit another vehicle resulting in the death of the operator of the car, then the eligible family members of the deceased could proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit. In this case, the driver owed a duty of care to other drivers on the road, breached that duty, and the negligent act of the driver of the vehicle caused the death of the other driver.

Another example of a wrongful death lawsuit is a case brought by the family members of a murder victim. In addition to being held criminally liable, a wrongful death lawsuit may also be brought by the victim’s family members. Since the person who perpetrated the homicide took the life of another through an intentional act, they can also be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit, allowing the victim’s family to receive damages.

What type of case is wrongful death?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case. Civil cases take place outside of the criminal court system. These cases are decided either by courts or juries.

When should you hire a lawyer for a wrongful death claim?

If a loved one dies as the result of the negligent or intentional act of another individual, you should contact an experienced Delaware wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. A wrongful death lawyer can work with you through each step of your case and work toward helping you receive the financial compensation you and your loved ones are entitled to get.

An experienced wrongful death lawyer understands what is necessary to provide an effective and efficient resolution for the loved ones of the deceased. They understand how emotionally challenging these cases are, and they know how important it is to help grieving family members receive the financial compensation they deserve.

How much does a lawyer charge for a wrongful death lawsuit?

For a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer will typically operate on either an hourly basis or on a contingency basis. If a wrongful death lawyer is working for a contingent fee, they will take a specific percentage of what a court or jury ultimately awards the family member(s) of the deceased. 

How does a wrongful death claim work?

For the best chance of succeeding in a wrongful death claim, you will want an experienced team of lawyers representing you. Your attorney will meet with you to discuss the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. They will ask for documentation like accident reports, medical records, and correspondence with insurance companies, to understand the cause of death and improve your chances of recovering damages.

Some cases can be settled in a matter of months, but many cases take longer. Wrongful death claims often involve negotiations with large insurance companies. The attorneys at Morris James take the time and effort necessary for a successful negotiation. If the case cannot be settled, and must go to trial, they will guide you through each step of the litigation. 

What are the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Delaware?

The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death action in Delaware is two years, meaning that eligible family members have just two years from the date of the event that caused their loved ones’ death to file a lawsuit. Two years may sound like a long time, but it passes quickly—particularly when a family is grieving, settling the victim's estate, and trying to move on with their lives.

If you have lost a loved one and think that you may have a wrongful death claim against another person, the wrongful death attorneys at Morris James can help. Contact us at your local Delaware office or via our online contact form.

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