December 14, 2023 | Personal Injury
Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience, and our deepest condolences go out to those facing such a profound loss. At McGuire Law Firm, we recognize the challenges that grieving family members endure during such trying times. In an effort to offer support, we aim to provide valuable information to guide families through the complex legal aspects of tragedy.
A common question that often arises in these situations is the distinction between accidental and wrongful death. Understanding this difference is crucial as it directly impacts the legal recourse available to surviving family members.
What is Accidental Death?
Accidental death refers to a demise resulting from an unexpected and unforeseeable event that is not caused by another party’s negligence. In these cases, the death occurs as a result of the deceased fault. The critical factor in determining accidental death is whether someone else acted negligently or unreasonably under the circumstances, contributing to the fatality.
Examples of accidental death include:
- Industrial accidents: This category involves incidents such as mining accidents, workplace explosions, and equipment malfunctions. In some cases, the employer may be the negligent party, and pursuing a civil action could be restricted by workers’ compensation.
- Poisoning: Death may occur due to poisoning by liquids, solids, vapors, or gasses. In instances of accidental poisoning, there is no negligent party directly responsible for causing the fatality.
- Blunt impact: Fatalities resulting from blunt impact, whether from a projectile or a falling object, are considered accidental if there is no negligence involved.
- Suffocation: Accidental deaths may also occur from suffocation caused by swallowing or choking on food or other objects that obstruct the air passage.
Understanding accidental death is crucial in distinguishing cases where there is no direct negligence by a third party. In such instances, pursuing a claim for wrongful death damages may not be applicable. This emphasizes the importance of clarity in legal distinctions during these challenging times.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when an individual’s demise is a direct result of the misconduct or negligence of another person. The legal framework surrounding wrongful death involves several key elements:
- Negligence: To establish a case of wrongful death, the surviving family member must prove that the victim’s death resulted from the careless or reckless actions of the defendant.
- Causation: The plaintiff is required to demonstrate how the negligence or misbehavior of the defendant directly caused the death of the victim.
- Breach of Duty: The surviving member needs to prove the duty of care by the negligent party to the deceased. Duty of care, as defined by tort law, is the legal obligation of an individual or organization to avoid actions or omissions that could foreseeably harm others.
Examples of wrongful death include:
- Medical malpractice: Wrongful death may occur if hospitals or medical professionals fail to adhere to proper procedures, leading to the untimely death of a patient.
- Nursing home abuse and neglect: The staff and the nursing home facility may be held responsible for wrongful death if they are unable to adequately monitor, care for, and provide necessary medical attention to residents.
- Defective product: Both the manufacturer and the company selling the product may be liable for wrongful death if an individual dies as a result of using a defective product.
Damages You Could Seek in a Wrongful Death
In wrongful death cases, the defendant typically bears responsibility for personal injury damages, often covered by their motor vehicle or homeowner’s insurance. Apart from the economic losses related to the personal injury, you may be eligible to recover damages for:
- Grief and sorrow: The emotional toll of losing a loved one is immeasurable. Seeking damages for grief and sorrow acknowledges the profound emotional impact on surviving family members.
- Loss of current and future financial support: In wrongful death cases, compensation can be extended to cover the loss of the deceased’s financial contributions to the family. This includes both current financial support and potential future earnings.
- Loss of companionship and consortium: Wrongful death can result in the loss of companionship and consortium, affecting the emotional well-being of surviving family members. Damages may be sought to address these intangible losses.
- Damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement: Compensation can also account for the pain, suffering, or disfigurement endured by the deceased individual before their passing. This acknowledges the personal hardships faced by the victim.
Our Oklahoma Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help
Regain peace of mind by seeking legal assistance from McGuire Law Firm. Our experienced legal team will shoulder the burden of handling all the tedious legal details, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your life. Schedule your free consultation today by calling McGuire Law Firm at (405)-513-5658.