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Important Elements in Proving Liability for a Wrongful Death Claim

November 14, 2023Articles

Taking on the legal system in a wrongful death claim can be an intimidating process, especially while the family is dealing with their loss and grief. But when the death was preventable and occurred due to someone else’s actions, the civil court in Connecticut offers a means of justice that gives the lost loved one back their voice. A successful wrongful death claim in Connecticut directly compensates the victim’s estate for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, pain and suffering experienced before the death, and the victim’s lost future income and retirement benefits.

The plaintiff in a wrongful death claim in Connecticut is the executor of the victim’s estate or a family representative appointed by the court. The plaintiff has the burden of proof to show the at-fault party’s liability through a preponderance of the evidence. Because this is essential to the case, it’s important to understand the key elements required to prove liability in a wrongful death claim in Connecticut.

Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim

All deaths feel wrong to family members left behind, but legally, a death is only wrongful if it directly results from another party’s negligence, egregiously reckless behavior, or purposeful wrongdoing. Examples include a death due to an intoxicated or distracted driver, a death due to a defective product, or an act of criminal violence resulting in a fatality.

Every person owes a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent causing harm to others. Breaching this duty of care by failing to take the actions a reasonable person would have in the same circumstances—or by engaging in reckless actions that endanger others—is negligent behavior that leaves the defendant liable for damages. An act of violence against another is also a “failure to take reasonable measures to prevent injury” so it satisfies the state’s requirement for proving the element of negligence in a wrongful death claim.

It often takes a skilled investigator to document evidence proving the defendant’s negligence.

A Death Occurred

The claimant in a wrongful death action must have proof that the death occurred. Typically this requires showing evidence such as the death certificate and autopsy report. A wrongful death claim cannot move forward without proof of the victim’s death—for instance, the court will toss out a claim for an alleged death if the victim is missing and there is no real evidence of their death.

Medical Bills, Funeral Costs, and Lost Future Income Can be Used as Evidence in a Wrongful Death Claim.

The Negligent Action Caused Death

Causation is a critical element of liability in a wrongful death claim. The family representative or executor who filed the Connecticut wrongful death claim must go beyond proving that negligence occurred—they also must prove the direct link between the defendant’s negligent action and the victim’s death. For instance, if an individual slips and falls in a grocery store with a leaky cooler and then dies of a heart attack the next day, the family members could only succeed in a wrongful death claim if medical professionals could prove it more likely than not that the fall caused the heart attack. In this example, it’s more likely that the heart attack was unrelated to the fall, so the store owner wouldn’t be liable. On the other hand, if the fall victim struck their head on a metal shelf after falling and died of a traumatic brain injury, it’s likely that the store owner’s negligence in failing to address a fall hazard leaves them liable.

The Victim’s Estate and/or Family Suffered Significant Damages

In personal injury and wrongful death claims, the word “damages” refers to the economic and non-economic consequences of the injury or death. The plaintiff in both types of cases must show the court that damages occurred. In Connecticut, wrongful death claims require showing evidence such as medical bills, funeral costs, and lost future income. When the representative or executor in the wrongful death claim is a spouse, they may also seek compensation for suffering the loss of their loved one’s companionship, emotional support, and consortium.

Could The Decedent Have Filed a Personal Injury Claim?

A wrongful death claim falls under personal injury law. To determine if your loved one’s death meets the requirements for a wrongful death claim, consider whether or not they could have filed a personal injury claim if they’d survived their injury. An experienced wrongful death attorney in New Haven can help you navigate this complex process and difficult time.