What must you prove in a wrongful death case?

Should one of your close relatives die in Pennsylvania because of someone’s negligence of wrongdoing, you have the right to bring a wrongful death action against that person. A wrongful death action represents a civil suit in which you ask a judge and/or jury to award you monetary compensation to cover the economic damages you suffered as a result of your loved one’s death.

In order to prevail in your lawsuit, however, you will need to prove the following by clear and convincing evidence:

  • That the person you are suing owed the deceased a duty of care
  • That (s)he breached his or her duty of care
  • That because of his or her breach, your loved one wrongfully died
  • That the breach constituted the proximate cause of your loved one’s death
  • That you suffered compensable monetary damages due to your loved one’s death

Damage types

You can receive three types of damages if you win your wrongful death lawsuit: economic damages, noneconomic damages and punitive damages. Your economic damages represent those on which you can place a precise dollar value, such as the costs of your loved one’s hospitalization, medical treatments, funeral and burial.

Your noneconomic damages represent those losses on which you can place no precise dollar amount. They include such things as the loss of your loved one’s companionship, love, guidance, support, etc.

Punitive damages represent a special type of damages above and beyond your actual damages. You will only get punitive damages if you can prove that the actions of the defendant in causing your loved one’s death were especially egregious or heinous.

Of course, no amount of money can make up for the loss of your loved one. However, winning a wrongful death action may give you a sense of justice, as well as providing you the closure you need.