FAQ: Who is liable for my loved one’s wrongful death?

That will depend upon the type of accident that caused your loved one’s death and the circumstances surrounding the event. Generally, any person or entity can be held liable as long as you, the plaintiff, can prove the other party acted with negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.

Proving Wrongful Death

First of all, it is important to classify who can sue for wrongful death in the first place. There are three classes of people who may file a wrongful death claim: Class 1 (parents, spouse, children, and lineal descendants), Class 2 (siblings, nieces, and nephews), Class 3 (plaintiff ad litem)

To succeed in a wrongful death suit, a person in one of these classes has the burden of proof for these elements:

  • The death of a family member occurred
  • The death was caused by the wrongful or negligent conduct of the defendant
  • The decedent would have maintained a cause of action for a personal injury suit against the defendant had death not occurred
  • At least one person (within Class 1, 2, or 3) has suffered losses as a result of the death
  • Damages have been suffered that the estate can recover

Common Parties That Can Be Held Liable For Wrongful Death

In some instances liability may lie solely on one party, while in others it may be spread across several parties. A wrongful death lawsuit can name one or more defendants. General examples include:

  • An individual
  • A business owner
  • A large, nationwide corporation
  • An “entity” like a hospital or nursing home
  • A government agency (In some cases, certain government agencies or governmental workers may be immune from a wrongful death lawsuit. This varies from state to state)

Car, motorcycle, ATV, pedestrian, and other auto accidents can result in wrongful death of people in the vehicles or on the streets. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • The other driver
  • The other driver’s employer
  • The vehicle owner who lent the vehicle to someone when they shouldn’t have (negligent entrustment)
  • The car maker
  • A repair shop that failed to properly perform a repair
  • Party responsible for maintaining the roadway

Due to their size, semi truck and other types of large commercial vehicle truck accidents often result in wrongful death. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • The truck driver
  • Trucking company
  • Truck owner
  • Truck manufacturer
  • Truck maintenance company
  • The truck’s leasing company
  • Broker who hired the trucking company to deliver a load
  • Parties responsible for loading the truck
  • Freight shipper
  • The driver of another motor vehicle

Construction sites can be dangerous and wrongful death occurs to people walking through them or driving in cars near them. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • Construction company
  • Road crew or one negligent member of the road crew
  • Construction site owner
  • Construction machinery manufacturer
  • General and sub-general contractors

In school bus, public transit, and charter bus accidents, wrongful death can occur to the people on the bus or the people driving side-by-side with these multi-ton vehicles capable of inflicting extensive damage. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • The bus driver
  • The city government or school district in which the bus operates
  • Bus contracting company
  • Major bus companies (Amtrak, Coach, Greyhound, etc.)
  • Bus parts manufacturer
  • Bus maintenance company

When defective products cause a wrongful death, you may have a product liability case. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • Product manufacturer
  • Product wholesaler
  • Product distributor
  • Parts supplier
  • Retailer who sold you the product

When a wrongful death takes place on someone else’s premises as a direct result of their negligence, you may have a premises liability case. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • Property owners
  • Business that rents the property from the owner
  • Private residence owners
  • Government entity that has involvement in running the property

We put our lives into the hands of medical professionals every day, but when their negligence causes a wrongful death, you may have a medical malpractice case. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • Hospitals and rehabilitation centers
  • Doctors
  • Surgeons
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Nurses
  • Therapists
  • Paramedics/EMTs
  • X-ray technicians
  • Facility staff

It is not uncommon for an Uber or Lyft driver to ignore the rules of the road and cause a rideshare accident that results in a wrongful death. When this happens, the common liable parties include

  • The rideshare driver
  • The rideshare company (Uber, Lyft, etc.)
  • Any other at-fault drivers

Self driving car accidents are relatively new, but one has already caused the wrongful death of an Arizona woman. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • Self-driving vehicle manufacturer
  • The designer(s) of the self-driving vehicle
  • Vehicle distributor
  • Parts supplier
  • Assembling manufacturer

Due to the emotional and physical toll this egregious act places on the victims, an unfortunate reality of sexual assaults is that victims may take their own lives. When this happens, the common liable parties include:

  • The assailant
  • The assailant’s employer
  • The premises where the assault took place
  • Apartment complex
  • Medical facility
  • Nursing home
  • A city, state, or federal entity
  • Any entity that had a duty to protect the victim such as a church, school, youth organization, etc.

Get in Touch With a Personal Injury Lawyer in St. Louis Who Cares | The Hayden Law Firm

If your loved one has passed away from an accident that you believe qualifies as wrongful death, you should hold the responsible parties liable for their negligence. Contact us or call a wrongful death lawyer in St. Louis, MO, at The Hayden Law Firm at (314) 480-3100 for a free, no-risk consultation.


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