wrongful death action

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A wrongful death action is a civil lawsuit brought by the family members or dependents of a deceased person against an individual or entity who can be held liable for the death due to their negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. This legal claim seeks to hold the responsible party accountable and to secure compensation for the survivors’ financial and emotional losses. Any tortious injury that caused someone’s death may be grounds for a wrongful death action.

Under common law, a wrongful death claim originally had to be brought by the decedent’s survivors, typically close relatives. However, modern wrongful death statutes have expanded and modified these rules to allow a broader range of family members and dependents to file such claims.

[Last updated in July of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]