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What elements must be proved in a wrongful death claim?

Unexpectedly losing a loved one in an accident can devastate you and your family. It could take some time to work through the emotional and financial tolls that your loss can create.

An Indiana civil court will not be able to help you with the emotional fallout, but it might be able to help with the financial burdens placed upon you and your family if the death of your loved one was due to the negligence of someone else.

You have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the party or parties you believe are responsible for your loss. An attorney should be able to tell you whether you have a claim after reviewing the circumstances of the accident. Thereafter, he or she will explain your legal rights and obligations in connection with taking the matter to court.

What will the court require from me?

You must establish four main elements to achieve a successful claim:

  1. The defendant or defendants must have owed some sort of duty to your loved one. In a car accident, this would be a duty to follow traffic laws, pay attention and otherwise be careful and diligent behind the wheel. In a medical malpractice case, medical personnel must meet certain established standards of care. Manufacturers are required to ensure that their products meet current safety guidelines.
  2. Once a duty to the victim is established, the next two elements (which go hand-in-hand), negligence and causation, need to be shown. You can prove negligence by providing evidence that the defendant or defendants were reckless, careless or otherwise negligent. Then those actions need to have caused or contributed to the death of your loved one.
  3. After you prove the first three elements, you will then need to establish what damages were sustained. For instance, medical bills, the loss of your loved one's income and the cost of the funeral and burial are some of the quantifiable damages you can request. Other damages, such as pain and suffering of the victim and other losses, may also be included.

How do you gather this information?

When you first visit your attorney, he or she will gather background information from you. In many cases, he or she will conduct an independent investigation in order to fully understand what happened, how the incident occurred and who is responsible. Your attorney will also assess the financial impact the death of your loved one has had on your situation.

He or she could bring in third parties to help with this process. For instance, your attorney could contact an accident reconstruction expert if your loved one died in a car accident. In addition, he or she could bring in a financial adviser to determine the monetary impact your loss could have now and in the future.

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