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What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

The death of a loved one is always a sad occasion. The event is usually accompanied by mourning and a sense of loss. What then, sets apart all death from the more legally couched term “wrongful death”? Typically, a wrongful death is when the death is caused by the negligence or other wrongful act of another person.

Common Causes

Defective products cause many wrongful deaths. These defective products may be prescription drugs that had fatal side effects. In other instances, the death may be caused by use of a dangerous consumer product or medical device. Manufacturers have a responsibility to provide the consumer a safe product. When they do not, the result may be the death of an innocent person.

The most common cause though, is probably motor accidents. These may occur through the use of automobiles, vans, ATVs, buses, RVs, or even boats. Considering the number of vehicles operating, this is not surprising. Carelessness, intoxication, negligence and immaturity behind the wheel can all contribute to these deadly accidents and could be the basis of a wrongful death.

Other causes of these fatalities include toxic exposure, poisoning, drowning, and medical malpractice. Basically, any instance where someone should have prevented the death, but chose not to intervene or take precautions could be cause for a wrongful death.

Monetary Damages

There are both compensatory and punitive damages available to those filing a wrongful death action. The compensatory damages are those that compensate for the loss of the person. For example, the medical care and funeral care of the deceased might be covered in this category. These damages may also compensate for the loss of income that would have been provided to the survivors, had the deceased person lived.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are used when the actions of the other person were particularly egregious. As the name implies, these damages are awarded to punish the person causing the death.


Because the laws vary from state to state, the limitations for these actions are varied. For example, Texas has a two-year statute of limitations on filing a claim, while Minnesota has a three-year limitation. Additionally, some states may have different rules about who can file these suits. In some states, children are precluded from filing after they reach adulthood and are independent of their parents.

Again, the death of a loved one is a tragic occurrence. When another person causes that loss, it may be considered a wrongful death. With all the variances and intricacies of the laws determining and defining the causes, damages and limitations just discussed, it is always a good idea to consult an attorney when considering these proceedings.