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How to Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?


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Losing someone you care deeply about can be devastating. The relationship that you have with that person will be saved in photographs and cherished memories, but there will be a hole in your life because that person is not with you today. It is even harder to deal with if your loved one passed away because of the negligence of another person. You want justice for your loved one and may want to pursue action against them.

In this article, we will discuss how to prove negligence in a wrongful death case. We will talk about how to prove the elements of negligence in order to be successful and get compensation for the death of your loved one.

How to Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case

In Grand Rapids, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. This means that the plaintiff in the case has to show that the defendant was negligent and that their negligence led to the death of your loved one. There are four elements needed to prove negligence: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. We will go over each of those elements.

  • Duty of Care - In wrongful death cases, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the decedent. Did the plaintiff have a duty to keep the decedent safe from harm? For example, if your loved one passed away after surgery, did the surgeon have a duty of care to protect the patient from harm during the procedure? Or, in the case of a car accident, did the other driver have a duty to safely share the roadway?

  • Breach of Duty of Care - If the duty of care prong has been established, we then have to prove that the defendant’s negligence led to the death of your loved one. For example, in the case of a car accident, did the defendant’s speeding cause the crash? Was the surgeon’s lack of concentration (maybe because of lack of sleep) the cause of a surgical mistake?

  • Causation - Next, the plaintiff has to prove that the breach of duty directly caused the death of the decedent. The plaintiff will need to prove that the other driver’s speeding led to the death of your loved one, or that it was the surgeon’s malpractice which caused the death.

  • Proving Damages - The last prong in proving negligence in a wrongful death action in Grand Rapids is proving damages. Because of the negligent behavior of the defendant, did the plaintiff suffer any damages? Some examples of damages include:

  • Funeral costs

  • Loss of companionship

  • Medical expenses

  • Lost wages and income.

How to Prove Fault for a Wrongful Death Claim

There are numerous methods that can be used by a Grand Rapids attorney to prove fault in a wrongful death claim. One of the most important ways you can help is to save any documentation you have about the case, such as police reports or medical records. Your attorney will use this information as well as other evidence to prove negligence in a wrongful death case, including the following:

  • Obtaining and analyzing all medical records that are relevant to the case

  • Obtaining copies of any police reports (in the case of a car accident) that were filed with the precinct

  • Interviewing witnesses to the incident

  • Hiring expert witnesses to review the case and to provide an expert opinion on the cause of death

  • Looking at photos or videos from the accident scene.

Sometimes, the at-fault person or entity is obvious and sometimes it is not. For example, in the surgery example, the hospital may have been at fault because they scheduled too many surgeries for the defendant, which caused them to be tired. Or, in the case of the car accident, there may have been another car involved which caused the defendant to strike the car of the deceased.

How Hard is it to Prove Wrongful Death?

The difficulty of proving wrongful death will depend on the accident and the specific details of the case. Sometimes, the case can be obvious. For example, if there were only two cars on the road, and the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, a wrongful death claim can be easy to prove.

No matter how difficult or easy your case may be, it is important to contact a wrongful death attorney in Grand Rapids soon after the death of your loved one. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death claim in Michigan is three years from the date your loved one passed away. If you do not file a claim within this time frame, your case could be dismissed. There are a few rare exceptions to this rule, which should be discussed with your attorney. It is important to discuss your case with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible, not only because of the statute of limitations, but because key evidence can be lost over time and memories of witnesses can fade.

Contact a Grand Rapids Wrongful Death Attorney Today

The wrongful death attorneys at Goodman Acker, P.C. have decades of experience with these types of cases and continuously fight for the rights of clients so they can receive compensation and move on with their lives.

While there are many wrongful death attorneys in Grand Rapids, the attorneys at Goodman Acker stand above the rest because of their tenacious abilities and their care for their clients. A combination of these traits goes a long way in fighting for justice for your loved one and making sure you are compensated for the actions of the negligent parties.

Contact the attorneys at Goodman Acker today at (248) 331-9416. We offer free consultations, and we only get paid if we are successful in obtaining damages through a jury trial or a settlement.