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How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?

Posted on by Lakepoint Law Firm
personal injury attorney salem OR

Looking to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Oregon?

If you are grieving a loved one, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is filing a wrongful death claim on their behalf. The law professionals at Lakepoint Law understand how difficult the wrongful death claim process is for the surviving family members. We aim to help our clients through the process as smoothly as possible. In this article, we cover a few different facets of wrongful death claims in the state of Oregon such as who can sue for compensation and what limits the law imposes on such claims. For more information, contact a personal injury attorney at Lakepoint Law in Salem.

How Does the State of Oregon Define Wrongful Death?

Oregon state law defines a wrongful death as a death caused by the “wrongful act or omission” of another person. The death of a loved one can cause survivors indescribable grief and pain, but when the death was preventable, this pain can increase significantly. Personal injury attorneys such as those at Lakepoint Law Firm have experience determining whether a loved one’s death qualifies for a wrongful death claim.

How Do You Establish a Defendant’s Legal Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim in Oregon?

There are a few different hurdles for a skilled lawyer to clear before a wrongful death claim can hold water in Oregon State. The legal representative for the plaintiff must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the other person or entity responsible for the wrongful death had a duty to care for the deceased, breached that duty, and caused the wrongful death. The family’s personal representative must also prove the damages claimed in the lawsuit.

Proving Duty of Care

personal injury attorney salem ORIn order to qualify for compensation under a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer faces the burden of proof when it comes to the defendant. The defendant must be found responsible for the duty of care for the deceased. While the exact definition of “duty of care” depends on the various factors of each specific case, in general, people are responsible and have a duty to keep others safe by both doing things to keep them safe and refrain from doing things that could harm them. For example, if a plaintiff alleges that a defendant drove negligently when they killed the decedent, the duty of care is the defendant’s responsibility to operate an automobile in a reasonable and safe manner.

Proving Breach of Duty

If the defendant is proven to have a duty of care to the decedent, an experienced attorney will also prove the breach of that duty of care which resulted in the wrongful death. Using the same example as above, the civil case needs to include evidence that the defendant was not paying attention when they struck and killed the decedent with their vehicle. Failing to pay attention to road conditions is a breach of the duty of care that the defendant had while driving. The plaintiff’s legal representative must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant breached their duty of care and that it resulted in the wrongful death of the decedent.

Proving Causation

Next, the plaintiff’s case must prove that the breach of duty caused the harm to the decedent. Continuing with the example from above, the plaintiff’s attorney must prove that it was the defendant’s car that struck the decedent. Even if the plaintiff proves duty of care and breach of duty, if it is found that a different vehicle struck the decedent before the defendant became involved, it’s likely that the jury will not find that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the harm, even if that breach of duty is proven. However, if the evidence presented indicates that the decedent was already seriously wounded when the defendant struck them with their vehicle and the breach of duty caused the incident that killed the decedent, the jury will likely find the defendant’s breach of duty as the cause of the decedent’s death.

Proving Damages

The plaintiff’s attorney must also provide proof for any damages eligible to be rewarded under the wrongful death claim. Oregon state law states that damages in a wrongful death claim may be awarded in an amount which:

  • (a) includes reasonable charges necessarily incurred for doctors’ services, hospital services, other medical services, burial services and memorial services rendered for the decedent;
  • (b) would justly, fairly and reasonably have compensated the decedent for disability, pain and suffering, and loss of income during the period between injury to the decedent and the decedent’s death;
  • (c) justly, fairly and reasonably compensates for pecuniary loss to the decedent’s estate;
  • (d)justly, fairly and reasonably compensates the decedent’s spouse, children, stepchildren, stepparents and parents for pecuniary loss and for loss of the society, companionship and services of the decedent; and
  • (e)separately stated in finding or verdict, the punitive damages, if any, which the decedent would have been entitled to recover from the defendant if the decedent had lived.

How Can Lakepoint Law Firm Help You?

If you are looking to file a legal claim for a wrongful death of a loved one, the legal process can be daunting, especially to those dealing with the grief and pain following such a loss. The experienced attorneys at Lakepoint Law Firm can help guide you through the process. For a case review and to talk to a lawyer, contact us today.



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