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What is involved in filing a wrongful death lawsuit?

When someone is killed in a tragic accident, their family will have to find a way to live without that person. It can be especially hard to accept their death if it was caused by the negligence of another person. For example, a number of fatal car accidents in Pittsburgh are caused by drunk or reckless drivers. In those cases, the negligent driver or the bartender that served the drunk driver alcohol may be held legally liable for the victim's death.

Families of those who are killed may be able to file a wrongful death suit in civil court against those who played a role in the death of their loved one. While wrongful death statutes vary from state to state, there are some general guidelines available to help you determine whether you have a potentially successful suit on your hands.

The victim's children, surviving spouse and other immediate family members may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death suit if they can prove three elements. First, they will need to show that their loved one did in fact pass away. Next, they will need to show that their death was caused by a third party's intent to cause harm or negligence. Lastly, they will have to show that they suffered monetarily as a result of the death. Even if the deceased person was never employed, they may have been able to provide resources to the household in other ways by providing services and guidance to the family.

Proving those three elements and showing that a personal representative has been appointed for the decedent's estate will help families recover damages, therefore helping them financially recover from their devastating loss. In addition to wrongful death, many families are also able to recover damages for the pain and suffering their loved one felt before their death.

Source: FindLaw, “What is a Wrongful Death Suit?,” accessed on March 30, 2015

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