Wrongful death law is applied to tort cases where the defendant’s actions caused the death of the victim and where the victim’s family and any dependants are left to subsequently suffer in the absence of the deceased. The goal of wrongful death laws is to provide financial relief to the survivors.
Wrongful death laws are relatively new. Early American courts held that when a person died as the result of someone’s action, the ability to bring a case against the person or entity that caused the person’s death died along with them. However, in the last century, lawmakers came to the understanding that this doctrine is unjust.
In the modern era, wrongdoers are not able to escape liability for their actions simply because their victim died. There are important distinctions between wrongful death and a similar claim known as a survivor action. Wrongful death laws make the wrongdoer compensate the victim’s family for the loss of the financial and emotional support the victim provided to the family. Survival action makes the wrongdoer pay for damages the victim sustained before they died, such as medical bills and pain and suffering.