When a loved one passes away unexpectedly, family and friends are left to deal with many confusing details and expenses. When wrongful death is caused by a third party, the process becomes even more complicated. 

To understand a wrongful death claim, we must first understand what wrongful death is. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about wrongful death claims and lawsuits in the UK.

What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is when a person dies or is killed due to a negligence of others. Filed by the surviving members of the victims’ family, wrongful death claim provides financial assistance to those affected.In a wrongful death, there is a clear indication of who is at fault for the death, such as medical negligence or the death of a worker due to no enforcement of safety standards.

In England and Wales, bereaved families can make a wrongful death claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Under the Act, bereaved families are able to claim compensation for suffering caused by a wrongful death, as well as compensation for any dependents of the deceased and damages to cover the cost of funeral expenses. This wrongful death claim can be made at any time up to three years of the incident.

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Elements of a Wrongful Death

As defined by law, there are four key elements involved. Similar to personal injury claims, wrongful death suits must meet and prove a set criteria. Those filing for a wrongful death lawsuit must prove each of these elements to win the lawsuit:

Duty of Care

The duty of care is handed to the defendant, who was in a position where they should have acted in a responsible manner toward the deceased. Those filing the lawsuit must prove that the death of their loved one was caused wholly or in part due to the recklessness or negligence of the defendant. This can include a doctor being sued for prescribing incorrect medication, or a driver being sued for not following road safety.

Breach of Duty

Once clear that the defendant had a duty of care to the person who has died, they must prove that the breach of duty was violated. Breach of duty is established by the plaintiff, in order to prove negligence. For example, it was the doctor’s misdiagnosis that led to patient death, or the driver could be texting and driving, therefore not following the rules of road safety.


In addition to proving how the duty of the defendant was breached towards the deceased, the lawsuit plaintiff is also required to prove how the defendant’s negligence resulted in the death of their loved one. For example, the doctor’s malpractice was a direct result of the death, or that the accident caused by the distracted driver resulted in death.

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What Comes Under Wrongful Death Claims?

There are numerous circumstances that come under wrongful death claims. Some of the most common types of wrongful death claims include the following and more:

  • Cycling and motorcycling accidents

  • Car accidents which result in death

  • Delays in a diagnosis or treatment

  • Failure to diagnose, refer a patient to a specialist or carry out diagnostic tests

  • Surgical errors

  • Assault on patients

  • Prescribing errors and overdoses

  • Neglect in residential care homes where care is needed, such as not feeding a patient or giving them only fluids to drink

  • Workplace accidents such as operation machinery

  • Roofing accidents

  • Accidents that occur in public places such as retail stores, theme parks, swimming pools

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Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death claim should be filed by a representative on behalf of the real parties in interest, or those who suffered damage or loss from the decedent’s death. These are usually executors of the decedent’s estate, and can vary from state to state.

Immediate family members, like spouses, children, and parents of an unmarried child can recover under wrongful death. A domestic or life partner who is a dependent of the deceased person, or a “putative spouse” can also file a claim. Other places allow for more distant family members such as brothers, sisters, and even grandparents can file a claim. 

In short, all those who suffer financially from the death can bring forth a wrongful death action, even if not related to the victim by blood.

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Who Can be Sued for Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought forth against several companies, agencies, employees and people. For example, those involved in a wrongful death due to a drunk driver on a faulty roadway can sue the driver, the person who served the liquor, the designer of the faulty roadway, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and more. The plaintiff will decide on who is liable for the lawsuit, and whether or not they fulfill and can prove all the elements for the wrongful death lawsuit.

However, in some cases, some agencies are immune from wrongful death lawsuits. 

Wrongful Death Settlement

Most families receive monetary damages related to the loss of a loved one. This can involve quantifiable measures such as loss of inheritance, medical bills, and even funeral expenses. It can also include non-quantifiable means such as emotional distress, loss of consortium, loss of parental guidance, and more.

The wrongful death settlement is a fixed sum of money, which is divided among those who claim it. As of 2013, the payout settlement is £12,980.

In short, wrongful death lawsuit can be applied for by partners and blood relatives of the deceased. They must be able to prove involvement of a third party and establish a duty of care, breach of said duty, and causation. Depending on the situation, the plaintiff proves wrongful death claims, and if successful, the claimants usually receive monetary compensation.

Hare | Wynn, Newell & Newton has a team personal injury and torts lawyers that can help you pursue your wrongful death lawsuit. Serving the people since 1890, their clients are their first priority.

Contact them for more info.

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