How to Prove Fault in Wrongful Death Settlements

We know how tough it can be to lose a loved one in a wrongful death incident. Unfortunately, it’s becoming rather common.

In 2017 alone, there have been almost 170,000 wrongful deaths, making it the 3rd cause of death nationwide.

Yet, the process of wrongful death settlements can still be rather delicate. After all, the party filing a lawsuit or submitting a claim will need to prove liability in order to win the case and claim the financial compensation.

If you’re wondering how it all works, keep on reading for our full breakdown of what wrongful death entails, and what the main elements are for proving liability.

Wrongful Death Settlements 101: What Is Wrongful Death?

In the simplest of terms, wrongful death happens as a result of an injury that could have been avoided in the first place. In short, if it weren’t for the defendant’s negligence, no one would have gotten hurt and lost their lives.

When it comes to wrongful death lawsuit settlements, they’ll depend on a plethora of factors.

For instance, the court will take the circumstances of death, the liability involved, and even the bills and expenses that came after the injury (and death) into account.

After the judge considers all the facts of the case, there will be a ruling. If the claim is successful, then a specific settlement amount will be decided for both the economic and non-economic damages.

Moreover, for any wrongful death claim to be successful, there are a couple of things that your case needs to establish. First, you’ll need to make it rather clear that the death was accidental and preventable.

Second, you’ll have to showcase that the death was a direct result of the defendant’s actions (or negligence).

Third, you’ll also have to present the damages that this preventable death caused, therefore, justifying the wrongful death settlement you’re requesting.

Needless to say, this can be a convoluted process. Therefore, having a qualified wrongful death attorney on hand is crucial for successful wrongful death litigation.

The Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

It’s important to understand the differences between a civil action and a criminal action. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case. Thus, the burden of proof is lower.

When it comes to criminal cases, you might have had to prove that a person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Thankfully, you don’t have to achieve the same standard when it comes to wrongful death.

Your lawsuit can be won, if it’s built on solid evidence, and if you met the following requirements.

Proving Fault: The Four Elements of Wrongful Death Cases

Now that we’ve covered what a wrongful death lawsuit looks like, it’s time to take a deep dive into what makes you win one.

There are four main elements of proof that your case needs to meet in order to win your lawsuit.


First and foremost, all wrongful death cases are built on the premise of the defendant’s negligence.

A wrongful death case must prove that the plaintiff’s loved one is dead due to the defendant’s carelessness, or negligent actions.

Breach of Duty

The second element is all about duty. After all, how can the defendant be negligent, if they don’t have a duty to the victim not to be?

For a successful wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff will have to prove a breach of duty. For instance, when it comes to malpractice cases, medical health providers have a duty to maintain a person’s health.

If a death was caused due to this breach of duty, it makes it a wrongful death that could have been prevented if the doctor or medical health practitioner did their jobs.


Once you have your negligence and breach of duty outlined, it’ll be simple enough to determine causation.

Basically, in order to prove that there has been a breach of duty from the defendant, you’ll have to present a clean-cut cause and effect between the defendant’s negligence and the wrongful death.


The final element that your case needs to address is presenting quantifiable damages that have occurred due to the death of the victim.

For example, these damages can range from medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, the loss of income, and the loss of potential earnings.

In addition, there are damages that aren’t as easily quantified. However, they still count and an arbitrary amount can be set for them.

Emotional damages like the victim’s loss to their family and loved ones, as well as the pain and suffering they went through before their death.

Once you meet all of these four elements, your wrongful death lawsuit will be won.

The Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Of course, every wrongful death case has its own unique circumstances.

However, there are common causes of wrongful death. In the eyes of the law, each category might need additional elements to prove wrongful death on top of the main four we’ve just discussed.

These categories are the following.

  • Motorcycle, commercial truck, or vehicle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product defects
  • Premises accidents
  • Abuse and neglect at assisted living or nursing home facilities
  • Supervised activities such as adult care, daycare, and field trips
  • Occupational hazards
  • Occupation exposure
  • Birth injuries
  • Criminal actions such as stabbings, shootings, or other blatant violence

However, do keep in mind that these categories aren’t the only ones. These are simply the most common causes of wrongful deaths. Therefore, make sure you don’t right your case out of hand if it doesn’t fit one of those categories.

Ready to Get the Right Team on Your Case?

We know how overwhelming a wrongful death lawsuit can be. From identifying wrongful death settlements to meeting the burdens of proof, it can be a bit much to untangle at first.

Yet, we hope that our guide of what a wrongful death claim entails cleared out a bit of the fog and enabled you to have a better understanding of your situation.

If you have any questions we’d be delighted to help you get justice for you and your loved one. You can contact us for a free consultation at any time.

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