How To Fight a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

How To Fight a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

How to fight a wrongful death lawsuit

Losing a loved one due to the negligence or misconduct of another party is a profoundly distressing experience. While no compensation can replace the loss, it can alleviate the financial strain often associated with such tragedies. However, knowing how to navigate this complex legal landscape is crucial if you find yourself receiving a wrongful death lawsuit.

An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you after a loved one's death. Our experienced wrongful death attorney at Ryan LLP can guide you as you fight your wrongful death suit. Learn more about how to secure a favorable wrongful death settlement below, and give us a call to schedule a case consultation.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A wrongful death claim hinges on four key elements: Duty of Care, Breach of the Duty of Care, Causation, and Damages.

Duty of Care

Establishing a "duty of care" is the cornerstone of any wrongful death lawsuit. In legal terms, this one party must do everything possible to avoid hurting someone else.

For instance, motorists must obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely to prevent accidents. Similarly, medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients, meaning they must adhere to accepted standards of medical practice to ensure patient safety. Establishing this duty is vital, as it sets the stage for proving negligence or misconduct.

Breach of the Duty of Care

Demonstrating a breach of this duty of care is the next critical step in a wrongful death case. A breach occurs when the defendant fails to uphold their established commitment, typically through negligent, reckless, or intentionally harmful actions.

For instance, if drivers operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, they breach their duty of care to drive safely. A surgeon who performs a procedure without the necessary precautions or standard protocol is breaching their duty of care to their patient. Proving a breach requires demonstrating that the defendant's actions deviated from what a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances.


Causation can be a complicated element of a wrongful death lawsuit. Here, the plaintiff must show that the defendant's breach of duty directly resulted in the decedent's death.

For example, if a patient dies after a surgical procedure, you must prove that the surgeon's specific action, or lack thereof, directly caused the death and not some other medical condition. The causal link between the breach of duty and the death can be hard to establish, which is why an experienced attorney is needed.


Finally, to make a successful wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that they suffered tangible damages due to the decedent's death. These damages are typically quantifiable, such as medical and funeral expenses, loss of the decedent's future income, and loss of inheritance.

Beyond these economic losses, plaintiffs can also claim non-economic damages, which are more subjective and can include pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress. Quantifying these non-economic damages can be challenging, often requiring expert testimonies and detailed life evaluations. These damages are the basis for the compensation sought in a wrongful death claim.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Common causes of wrongful death lawsuits

Navigating through the pain of losing a loved one can be emotionally daunting, and the challenges can be intensified when the death results from another's negligence or misconduct. Wrongful death lawsuits can stem from various circumstances, each with unique legal implications and complexities. The most common causes include:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: These are extremely common and can result in fatalities. When a death occurs due to another driver's negligence, reckless driving, or a violation of traffic laws, it can give rise to a wrongful death claim.
  • Medical Malpractice: When medical professionals fail in their duty of care, it can sometimes lead to the tragic loss of life. Incidents such as surgical errors, misdiagnoses, or inadequate treatment can form the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Workplace Accidents: Certain industries pose considerable risks, and failure to adhere to safety regulations can result in fatal accidents. From construction site mishaps to chemical exposure, wrongful death claims can arise from various workplace scenarios.
  • Defective Products: Manufacturers and distributors are legally obligated to ensure their products are safe. The responsible party may face a wrongful death lawsuit if a product defect leads to a fatal accident.
  • Criminal Acts: Wrongful death isn't confined to accidents or negligence. Deliberate acts of violence, such as assault or murder, can also result in a wrongful death claim, providing a civil remedy alongside criminal prosecution.

It's essential to remember that each case is unique and requires specific legal strategies and expertise to navigate a wrongful death lawsuit successfully.

Fighting a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Fighting a wrongful death lawsuit

Defending against a wrongful death lawsuit requires a comprehensive and detailed approach. Some of the key steps involved include:

Hiring the Right Legal Team

Confronting a wrongful death lawsuit is a complex and emotionally draining process that requires expert guidance. The first crucial step in fighting these claims involves hiring a skilled legal team specializing in wrongful death lawsuits. These experts understand the intricate details of the legal landscape and empathize with the emotional turmoil that such a situation often induces.

An experienced legal team will protect your rights, guide you through the complexities of the lawsuit, and work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome. Remember, proper legal representation can be the difference between an unfavorable verdict and a fair resolution.

Gathering and Preserving Evidence

Once you have the right legal team, the focus is gathering and preserving credible evidence to support your defense. Your attorney will ensure relevant evidence such as medical records, eyewitness testimonies, photographs from the accident scene, or any other crucial documents are meticulously collected and securely stored.

These pieces of evidence can be instrumental in challenging the plaintiff's claims and strengthening your defense. It's essential to begin this process promptly, as evidence can quickly become unavailable or lose its value over time.

Analyzing the Plaintiff's Claims

Analyzing the plaintiff's claims forms the core of the defense strategy. Your attorney will meticulously review the claims, identifying potential weaknesses, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies that can be leveraged to your advantage.

They will also evaluate the strength of the plaintiff's evidence to gauge the potential risks of the case. This step helps comprehend the merit of the plaintiff's claim and provides the foundation for a robust defense strategy.

Building a Strong Defense Strategy

Armed with a thorough understanding of the plaintiff's claims and the available evidence, your attorney will tailor a defense strategy specific to your case. This might involve challenging the authenticity or relevance of the plaintiff's evidence, discrediting their witnesses, or introducing alternative theories of causation. By crafting a strong and personalized defense strategy, your attorney will put you in the best position to contest the wrongful death claim.

Settlement Negotiations and Mediation

While court trials are sometimes inevitable, many wrongful death cases are resolved through out-of-court settlement negotiations or mediation. Your attorney plays a vital role during these discussions, advocating for your interests and working toward a resolution that minimizes your financial liability.

They will negotiate tirelessly, using the evidence at hand and their understanding of the law, to arrive at a fair and just settlement in your specific circumstances.

Preparing for Trial

The case will head to trial if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached. In anticipation, your attorney will refine your defense strategy, prepare witnesses for testimony, and develop persuasive arguments to present before the court. This preparation is all-encompassing, focusing not only on the case's legal aspects but also on effectively communicating the defense's narrative to the jury.

Courtroom Strategies and Procedures

During the trial, your attorney will employ various courtroom strategies to contest the plaintiff's claims and advocate for your defense. They will challenge inadmissible evidence, cross-examine witnesses to highlight inconsistencies and present compelling arguments to sway the jury in your favor. Your attorney's knowledge of courtroom procedures and litigation skills significantly shape the trial's outcome.

Handling Appeals and Post-Trial Motions

The verdict does not necessarily signal the end of the legal battle. If the outcome is unfavorable, your attorney may challenge it through appeals and post-trial motions, especially if legal errors during the trial could have significantly impacted the result. This final stage requires a deep understanding of appellate procedures and can be vital in ensuring justice is served.

Parties Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim

Typically, close family members such as spouses, children, and parents of unmarried children can file a wrongful death claim. Some states also allow other dependents or beneficiaries to file a claim. Because many different parties can be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, reach out to an attorney as soon as possible to get your case reviewed. 

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Every state has a specific deadline, or statute of limitations, for filing wrongful death lawsuits. It's crucial to be aware of these deadlines, as failure to file the lawsuit within the specified time limit can result in the case being dismissed.

In Ohio, you have two years from the time of the individual's death to file a wrongful death lawsuit, so be sure to reach out to us to schedule your consultation as soon as possible. 

Common Defenses in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Common defenses in wrongful death lawsuit

Defending a wrongful death lawsuit requires an in-depth understanding of the legal landscape and an ability to counter the plaintiff's claims effectively. While each case is unique, several common defenses can be strategically leveraged:

  • No Breach of Duty of Care: The defendant can argue that they fulfilled their duty of care and acted as any reasonable person would in similar circumstances. Evidence showing adherence to safety guidelines, professional standards, or other appropriate measures can help substantiate this claim.
  • No Causal Link: Another defense strategy involves challenging the causation element. The defendant may assert their actions did not directly cause the decedent's death. This may include presenting evidence that other factors or intervening events were responsible for the fatal outcome.
  • Contributory Negligence: In some jurisdictions, if the decedent was partly at fault for their death, the defendant may be able to reduce their liability. This strategy demonstrates that the decedent's negligent behavior contributed to the fatal incident.
  • Comparative Negligence: Similar to contributory negligence, comparative negligence considers the decedent's role in their demise. However, unlike contributory negligence, comparative negligence allows for damage recovery even if the decedent was partially at fault, though the decedent's percentage of fault typically reduces the total damages.
  • Statute of Limitations: If the plaintiff did not file the lawsuit within the prescribed time limit, the defendant could use the expired statute of limitations as a defense. The time limit varies by state and can be influenced by factors such as discovering the cause of death.

Choosing the right defense strategy requires careful analysis of the facts, evidence, and legal doctrines applicable in the relevant jurisdiction.

Speak With Our Skilled Wrongful Death Attorney at Ryan LLP | Call Us Today!

Speak with our skilled wrongful death attorney at Ryan LLP

At Ryan LLP, facing a wrongful death lawsuit can be overwhelming. Our experienced team is committed to providing compassionate and dedicated legal representation. We strive to guide you through this challenging process, defending your rights and interests every step of the way.

Call us today for a free consultation.

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