The specific documents or information you will need to file a wrongful death lawsuit will vary depending on the circumstances. In general, you will need sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant was negligent, and that the negligence was responsible for your loved one’s death. In other words, you will need to prove that the death could be legally categorized as wrongful death.
Every death feels like a wrongful occurrence, and the absence of a loved one can feel impossible to bear. A family’s loss is made all the more difficult when their loved one would have been alive but for the negligence of a third party, such as an irresponsible driver. At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C., our wrongful death lawyers help guide families through difficult times. We provide trusted legal guidance designed to enable bereaved family members to pursue justice on behalf of their deceased loved ones.
Proving the elements of a wrongful death case
In every wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff’s counsel must prove certain elements. They are as follows:
- Duty of care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent. For example, in a car accident case, all drivers owe all other drivers and pedestrians a duty to exercise reasonable caution and obey the rules of the road.
- Breach of the duty of care: The defendant not only owed a duty of care to the decedent but also violated that duty in some way. In a car accident case, this breach might involve running a red light, speeding, or driving while intoxicated.
- Causation: The evidence must show that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care resulted in the wrongful death. For example, if the defendant ran a red light, but the slippery conditions on the road resulted in the decedent’s loss of control of his car, then a wrongful death lawsuit cannot be brought. On the other hand, if the defendant ran a red light and T-boned the decedent’s car as a result of that action, then the family may file a wrongful death claim.
When reviewing your case, your wrongful death lawyer will determine whether these elements may be proven in court. Lawyers rely on various types of evidence to prove negligence in court.
Common types of evidence
During your initial consultation with the lawyer, you will be questioned about the circumstances of your loved one’s death. Your answers will inform the lawyer’s search for evidence. For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, the lawyer will ask to see the police report. The police report may reveal that the other driver was given a chemical blood alcohol content (BAC) analysis, for example, or that they ran a red light.
It’s also quite common for wrongful death attorneys to request copies of the decedent’s autopsy report. This is particularly important in cases of suspected medical malpractice, since this report may reveal a fatal medication error, or perhaps a surgical mistake. Furthermore, if medical malpractice is suspected, or if your family member lived for a short while after the accident, then the medical records will also be vital in proving liability.
In most wrongful death cases, it’s relatively straightforward to prove that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care. For example, the individual’s doctor naturally owes a duty of care to them. However, proving this element can be a little trickier for premises liability cases. For example, let’s say your family member fell from a fire escape that was installed for a landlord by a third-party contractor. You’ll need the contract between the landlord and the contractor that proves the nature of the relationship.
Evidence of damages
In addition to proving that a wrongful death occurred, you will need to provide evidence regarding the damages. Economic damages are those that are easily calculable. For example, you could sue for the loss of financial support, in which case you will need tax returns that prove their financial contributions. If they lived for a period after the accident, you’d need copies of their medical bills and related expenses.
You might also sue for emotional anguish, loss of consortium, or loss of parental support and guidance. Documents that prove your personal loss might include bills from a grief counselor.
Contact us for a confidential consultation
The wrongful death lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. understand that it can be challenging to make major decisions in the wake of a family member’s untimely passing. We’re here to offer comprehensive legal guidance and a case evaluation to allow you to make an informed decision regarding litigation.
Since 1975, we’ve served families throughout Rockland County, NY, and Bergen County, NJ, providing trustworthy counsel and an empathetic ear. Contact us today to request an initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer.