Wrongful death is a death caused by someone else – an individual, group of individuals, company, or organization – that can be the immediate or delayed outcome of someone else’s negligence and the misconduct or negligence causing the death. Wrongful deaths can be intentional or unintentional and can occur in an instant or can be a long and agonizing event. Wrongful death lawsuits are brought by the relatives of the deceased. The suits must be brought under a state’s Wrongful Death statute, because there is no wrongful death cause of action under the common law.
As an example, here is the wrongful death statute in Massachusetts: A person who (1) by his negligence causes the death of a person, or (2) by willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a person under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (3) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his negligence causes the death of a passenger, or (4) operates a common carrier of passengers and by his willful, wanton or reckless act causes the death of a passenger under such circumstances that the deceased could have recovered damages for personal injuries if his death had not resulted, or (5) is responsible for a breach of warranty which results in injury to a person that causes death, shall be liable in damages for the death.
A person shall be liable for the negligence or the willful, wanton or reckless act of his agents or servants while engaged in his business to the same extent and subject to the same limits as he would be liable under this section for his own act. Damages under this section shall be recovered in an action of tort by the executor or administrator of the deceased. An action to recover damages under this section shall be commenced within three years from the date of death, or within three years from the date when the deceased’s executor or administrator knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the factual basis for a cause of action.