When a person dies as a direct result of another’s negligence or intentional act, the victim’s loved one may take legal action against the responsible party. Recovered damages may include those incurred by the decedent up to the time of their death such as medical expenses and pain and suffering, as well as compensation for family members for their own losses arising from the death of their loved one.
Who May File a Delaware Wrongful Death Case?
Every state has its own wrongful death statutes that set forth who can bring suit, potential damages, and the statute of limitations. In Delaware, wrongful death actions can be filed by:
- Spouse of the decedent
- Parents of the decedent
- Children of the decedent
- Siblings of the decedent
- Parents who were not married to each other at the time the decedent was born
- Half-Siblings of the decedent
- Any person related to the decedent by blood or marriage
Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims
Whenever a victim would have had a personal injury claim as a result of the negligent or intentional conduct of another, then the surviving family member can file a wrongful death action. Common scenarios include: murder; death as a result of medical malpractice or because of a defective product; death during a supervised activity; and car accident fatalities involving negligence.
Though wrongful death actions can stem from many different situations, if an employee is fatally injured in a job-related accident or by an occupational illness, claims typically must be handled exclusively through the Delaware’s Workers’ Compensation system. An exception to this would be if the death was caused by the negligence of a third party, such as the manufacturer of a defective part, or a property owner of an unsafe construction site.
Wrongful death actions can be filed even if a criminal case is pending against the individual who caused the decedent’s death (for example in cases of murder or vehicular manslaughter).
Proving a Wrongful Death
Typically, plaintiffs in a wrongful death action file a claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate. The burden of proof is the same that the decedent would have had to meet in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she had survived. As such, if the decedent was fatally injured as a result of the negligent conduct of the defendant, then the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, breached his or her duty, and that the breach caused damages.
The elements of a wrongful death claim are that a person died as a result of another person’s negligent or intentional conduct. Further, the plaintiff must prove that the surviving family members are suffering financial injury as a result of the death, and that a personal representative has been appointed for the decedent’s estate.
Damages in a Delaware Wrongful Death Action
In Delaware, monetary damages awarded by the court are divided among the beneficiaries of the decedent in proportion to the injuries suffered as a result of the untimely death. The family has two years from the date of death to file a claim for damages. The award is determined by either the judge or a jury (the fact finder) depending upon the unique circumstances of the case.
The fact finder will examine several factors in determining an award, including the cost of the funeral, lost wages, loss of child support contributions, loss of household services including the reasonable cost of child care, and mental anguish resulting from the death of a spouse or child, medical bills incurred by the decedent, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium.
Delaware Wrongful Death Lawyers at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. Represent Families in Wrongful Death Actions
To schedule a free consultation with a skilled Delaware wrongful death lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A., call us today at 302-656-5445 or contact us online. With offices in Wilmington and Georgetown, we advocate for clients in Dover, Delaware and throughout the state.