Losing a loved one is never easy but losing a loved one due to the negligence of a third party is particularly difficult. Oftentimes, when we lose someone due to the negligence of others, we feel compelled to find answers, and we want someone to be held accountable for their improper actions. In order to establish a viable wrongful death claim, however, there are three specific elements that must be met.
In order to hold a third party accountable for the loss of a loved one, it is first necessary to prove that the third party had a responsibility to provide a duty of care to a loved one and failed to do so, resulting in damage or injury to another person. This is called negligence. Examples of negligence may include a driver who fails to stop at a red light causing a traffic accident that injures another driver, or a physician who fails to check his patient’s chart for allergy information prior to prescribing the penicillin that causes the patient’s death.
In cases where wrongful death may have occurred due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider, negligence must be proved based upon an established standard of care. This means that the negligent healthcare provider’s actions must be compared to the actions of a reasonable healthcare provider in a related background to see if the established standard of care was met.
The second element that must be met is causation, otherwise known as the “but for” test. In a wrongful death claim, this means that the deceased would have lived “but for” the negligence of a third party. To return to the example above, the patient would not have died but for the physician’s failure to check the patient’s chart for allergy information prior to prescribing penicillin. If the physician had checked the patient’s chart, which is a reasonable standard of care for a physician, the physician would have known not to prescribe penicillin to the patient, and the patient would have lived.
The final element to be met is damages. This means that it is necessary to prove to the court that the loss of your loved one caused losses that impacted you and your family in a negative way. Some examples of damages are hospital bills, the pain and suffering endured by the deceased, burial and funeral costs, lost income, and loss of companionship. Unless proof of these losses is provided, the element of damages cannot be met.
If you have questions regarding a possible wrongful death claim, contact the attorneys at Hicks & Motto for a consultation free of charge. You have questions, we have answers.