"Common law" in the United States did not allow this type of lawsuit. During the last century, however, state and federal courts have created the right to bring a wrongful death action. Every state in the United States now has some kind of wrongful death law.
These claims involve all fatal accidents from automobile accidents to complicated medical malpractice cases. Govt. agencies, companies and citizens can deemed legally at fault for acting negligently and / or for acting intentionally.
There are four primary components in wrongful death (as defined by law). Surviving family members filing a lawsuit must prove each component to win the case for financial recompense. The four key components are:
- Negligence – Surviving family or their legal representatives must prove the death was caused by the recklessness, carelessness, or negligent actions of the other (aka defending) party.
- Breach of Duty – It must be proven that the defendant owed a duty to the deceased victim. For example, the driver of the car maintains a duty to drive safely, follow and obey all traffic laws.
- Causation – The lawsuit plaintiff must also prove how the defendant’s negligence caused the death.
- Damages – The death of the victim must have generated quantifiable damages such as hospitalization, medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of income and potential earnings, loss of protection, guidance and inheritance along with pain and suffering of the victim prior to death.