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Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Mar 20, 2022

If a family member is killed or dies due to the misconduct or negligence of another, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. A successful case can provide you with monetary compensation for lost companionship, the victim's lost wages, and funeral expenses.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Read on to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit: What Is It?

Under Wyoming law, you can claim wrongful death when your family member dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another. 

Wrongful death can happen as a result of a:

According to Wyoming case law, only the following family members can file a wrongful death suit:

  • Spouses
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Siblings
  • Uncles
  • Aunts
  • Grandparents
  • Cousins

Companies, people, and governmental agencies can be held liable for wrongful death. Note, however, that Wyoming law protects the government from most civil suits. As such, you should consider working with an experienced Wyoming wrongful death attorney. The right Wyoming wrongful death lawyer will walk you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit and help you and your family get the justice you deserve.

What You Need for Wrongful Death Suits

Your lawsuit must have the following wrongful death elements to be successful in court:

Negligence

Firstly, there must have been an element of negligence. Negligence is a failure of the defendant — the person you're suing — to act reasonably and with proper care. Reasonableness varies depending on your situation since it's determined by the defendant's particular circumstances and role. 

For example, let's say that your family member was involved in a motor vehicle accident. During the accident, they noticed that the defendant was a severely nearsighted driver who was not wearing glasses when they were driving. Since a reasonable nearsighted driver would've worn glasses when driving, the defendant would be considered to have acted negligently. As such, the defendant is likely to be held liable for your family member's death. 

Death

You need to prove that the person for whom you're claiming wrongful death actually died. You can't claim wrongful death if you don't have concrete proof that they've actually died. For instance, if your family member disappeared after an accident and you have no evidence to prove that they actually died at the scene of the accident, you probably won't be able to file a successful wrongful death lawsuit.

Negligence Caused the Victim's Death

Your family member's death must have been caused by another person's negligence or misconduct. If your family member died from an unrelated condition (i.e., a pre-existing health problem that had nothing to do with the accident), you won't be able to successfully sue for wrongful death.

Damages Occurred

Finally, you need to have solid proof that you and your family have suffered substantial losses as a result of your family member's death. For example, proof might be that the deceased was your family’s primary breadwinner and their death means you can no longer pay your mortgage or their funeral expenses.

Evidence That Can Assist in Proving Wrongful Death

As you can see, filing a wrongful death lawsuit isn't as straightforward as it sounds — you need ample proof to get what you deserve. Here are some important pieces of evidence that can strengthen your wrongful death claim:

Family Pictures, Communications, Relationship

It is important to preserve family photographs and cards, messages, and other communications to help evidence who your loved one was, and the type of relationship you had.  We work hard with families to be able to honor your loved one by sharing with juries who you have lost, what kind of person they were, and how they contributed to your life.  Under the law, this type of information is important to establish your wrongful death damages; it is also important to really help tell the story of the people who are hurt by negligent and reckless conduct.

Medical Records or Bills Medical Care

If your loved one was in the hospital as a result of the accident, medical records and bills can also assist in proving wrongful death. Our team of investigators, paralegals and trial lawyers, along with our in-house medical experts, will work with you to gather the information we need from the medical providers so we can analyze every detail of your case.  You might also receive bills for care that was provided before a loved-one passed away. We will help you through this process and determine what steps must be taken to protect you after a wrongful death leaves you needing answers, and needing support.

Witness Statements and Testimony

If there was a third-party witness at the scene of the accident that caused your family member's death, it might be helpful to make a list of names, contact information, and what information they may have.  Our trained investigators will use any leads or ideas you might have as we begin to gather evidence and testimony in putting your case together.  A neutral third-party witness testimony will bolster your argument that your loved one's death was caused by the defendant's negligence or misconduct.

Examples of Wrongful Death Cases and Outcomes

Oilfield Explosion Wrongful Death:  $11 Million Settlement

We represented three young sons and the parents of a man killed in an explosion at a saltwater disposal facility in the Permian Basin in New Mexico, resulting in a settlement of more than $11 million. The settlement was reached after two years of litigation to obtain the settlement from six different defendants due to the mismanagement and scheduling errors that created dangerous conditions and a worksite explosion. 

Train-Truck Collision Wrongful Death Case

The Spence Law Firm also represented the family of a Wyoming man who was killed at a Union Pacific railroad crossing.  The deceased, Donald Pribbernow, worked for a construction company and was hauling sand from a gravel quarry close to the crossing. He and a co-worker were traveling to Cheyenne after work when a Union Pacific train hit their vehicle on the crossing. Both died instantly. 

The Spence Law Firm was able to prove during the trial that Union Pacific was negligent because they did not put any warning gates, lights, or bells at the crossing. The driver's view of the oncoming train was also obstructed by Union Pacific buildings. 

The jury awarded Pribbernow's family $2 million for their losses. After the trial, Union Pacific closed the crossing.

Where You Can Find Wrongful Death Attorneys

It can be hard to find wrongful death attorneys, particularly if you've never filed a lawsuit before. Luckily, we at The Spence Law Firm are here to help. We have ample experience in wrongful death cases and will help you get the justice you and your family deserve.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with wrongful death settlements and lawsuits.
 

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