Did you know that more than 190,000 people die in the US every year in wrongful death circumstances? These deaths stem from incidents like medical malpractice, defective vehicles, and toxic food products.

When someone dies as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another, their family may be able to file a wrongful death claim. This type of claim aims to recover damages that are associated with the death of a loved one. One of the most important concepts in a wrongful death claim is the duty of care.

What is the duty of care, and why is it so important in a wrongful death claim? These are excellent questions, and we have all the answers you need right here. In today’s post, we’ll be looking at what duty of care is in a wrongful death claim.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that is filed when someone dies as the result of another person’s or entity’s negligence or recklessness. The purpose of this type of lawsuit is to recover damages for the losses that the family has suffered as a direct result of the death.

In order for a wrongful death claim to be successful, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased and that they breached this duty, which led to the death.

So, what is the duty of care? And why is it so important in a wrongful death claim? Let’s take a look.

What Are the Major Elements in a Wrongful Death Case?

Wrongful death cases can be overly complex, but they all seek justice for the decedent’s family of beneficiaries after a wrongful death. Some key elements in any wrongful death claim include:

Proving Negligence

In any wrongful death claim, the defendant must prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was negligence on the plaintiff’s part. Negligence mostly occurs because of recklessness, carelessness, or callousness that results in a fatal accident.

Duty of Care

“Duty of care” is the legal obligation of one party to avoid causing injury or harm to another. In a wrongful death claim, a duty of care is owed by the defendant to the deceased.

“Duty of care” simply means that the defendant had the responsibility to ensure the safety of the victim. For example, if a doctor failed to diagnose a patient’s cancer and the patient died as a direct result, the doctor would be found to have breached their duty of care.

Another scenario is if your loved one died because of a vehicle malfunction. The manufacturer had the responsibility to ensure all its vehicles were safe to drive.

The same goes for deaths because of car accidents involving two cars. The at-fault party had a duty of care to obey all traffic rules and drive safely. Failing to do so meant the at-fault driver had breached their duty of care.


Causation means that the plaintiff must prove that the death was a direct result of the defendant’s negligence. In other words, but for the defendant’s negligence, the death would not have occurred.

This is best explained with an example. Suppose a doctor misdiagnosed a patient’s cancer and the patient died as a direct result. The doctor would be found liable because, but for their negligence, the patient would not have died.

On the other hand, if the patient had died even if the doctor had correctly diagnosed cancer, the doctor wouldn’t be held liable because their negligence was not the direct cause of death.

Causation can be a complex concept, which is why it’s best to speak to an experienced attorney if you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim. You can view these wrongful death lawyers if you’re planning to file a wrongful death claim.


In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff is typically seeking damages for their losses. These can be economic or non-economic damages.

Economic damages are those that have a monetary value and can be calculated, such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of income, and medical bills.

Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify but can include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship.

In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious. These are designed to punish the defendant and deter them from engaging in similar behavior in the future.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In most states, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is first in line to file a wrongful death claim. If there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, or the deceased’s children can file the claim.

If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, their parents can file a claim. In some cases, other family members may also be able to file a claim, such as siblings or grandparents.

It’s worth noting that each state has its own laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim. That’s why it’s best to speak to an experienced attorney in your state if you want to file one.

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

In most cases, the settlement from a wrongful death claim will go into the deceased’s estate. From there, it will be distributed to the surviving spouse or other family members according to state law.

In most cases, the plaintiff’s lawyer will receive a check from the defendant’s insurance company. The lawyers will then deduct their fees and remit the remainder to the decedent’s family.

It’s worth noting that you don’t have to pay inheritance or estate tax on the settlement amount you get from the claim. That’s because the money goes directly to the plaintiff and not their estate.

Suspect a Wrongful Death? Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney Today

Now that you know what duty of care is, you should be more than prepared to file your wrongful death claim.

Just don’t forget to hire a reputable wrongful death attorney to get the settlement you deserve. It’s worth noting that insurance companies have crafty lawyers that can weaken your claim and ruin your chances of a fair settlement.

Do what’s best for you and hire a proficient lawyer to help you file your wrongful death claim. Also, don’t forget to check out the other posts on the site for more informative content.