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The loss of a loved one is tragic and devastating. There is no amount of money that can replace the companionship and spirit of those who have left us. However, if one’s loved one has been caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, they may wish to bring a wrongful death action to honor the life of the decedent. This blog post provides a brief overview of a wrongful death action and its requirements.

What Is a Wrongful Death Action?

As its name suggests, a wrongful death action is an action brought by a decedent’s spouse or family when they believe that the decedent’s death was “wrongful.” A “wrongful death” is a death that is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another. This can include negligence or intentional acts.

Is a Wrongful Death Action the Same Thing as a Survival Action?

Many individuals confuse wrongful death actions with survival actions. It is important to understand that these are two different legal actions. A survival action is a personal injury claim that could have been made by the deceased if he or she had survived. In other words, a survival action is when a decedent’s heirs essentially step in the shoes of a decedent to vindicate the decedent’s rights. This is different than a wrongful death action, where the claimant is seeking compensation for the damages they have suffered as a result of a decedent’s death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action?

In MN only a decedent’s spouse or a blood relative can bring a wrongful death claim. Furthermore, to file a wrongful death action, a trustee must be appointed by a court.

What Is Required to Have a Valid Wrongful Death Action?

A wrongful death action essentially hinges on the ability to prove four essential elements:

  • A human being has died
  • Another individual or group’s wrongful act or omission caused the death
  • The decedent’s spouse or relatives are experiencing damages as a result of the death
  • A personal representative or trustee of the decedent’s estate has been appointed.

Common causes of death that give rise to wrongful death actions include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Work-related accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home negligence
  • Premises liability
  • Defective products

What Damages are Available for a Wrongful Death Action?

A wrongful death action is meant to provide compensation to losses that a decedent’s spouse or family has suffered as a result of the decedent’s death. Such damages include:

  • Pecuniary losses suffered as a result of the decedent’s death
  • Funeral expenses
  • Emotional damages from the loss of the decedent’s support
  • In rare cases, punitive damages

How Long Does One Have to File a Wrongful Death Action?

Like other civil actions, a wrongful death action has a statute of limitations. One generally has three years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim, although there are exceptions for extraordinary circumstances.

Overall, pursuing a wrongful death action can be a daunting and emotional task. Dudley and Smith, P.A. has experienced attorneys, including attorney Katherine Brown Holmen, who have obtained successful results and who can provide assistance for such claims.