Wrongful Death Documents and Evidence Needed for a Claim
The types of evidence and wrongful death documents you need to gather to file a claim will vary, but there are some common items necessary for all claims. The following documents and items should be on hand to file your wrongful death claim.
The Death Certificate and Any Police ReportsYour loved one's death certificate can provide an accurate record of the exact cause of death as verified by the coroner. If the death was attributed to an event such as a car accident or a premises liability accident such as a slip and fall, the police may have been called to investigate. In these situations, a police report and evidence documentation will be completed. You will want access to these wrongful death documents as soon as possible so they can be submitted with your wrongful death claim.
Autopsy Reports and Medical RecordsIf medical malpractice was suspected as the cause of your loved one's death, you will need to secure copies of his or her complete medical records as soon as possible. Any discrepancies, errors or wrongdoing may have been noted in these wrongful death documents, or there may be evidence that this information was covered up or removed. If you believe that a doctor's actions caused your loved one's death, you may need to request a full autopsy to determine if medical error was to blame. Accidents like surgical errors can be proven through an examination of the body, while toxicology reports can determine if a lethal medication error was to blame for the death.
Evidence of the Relationship Between the Negligent Party and VictimFor a case of negligence to be valid, there must be a relationship between the negligent party and the victim that shows the other party owed the victim a duty of care. This can be as simple as a doctor owing his or her patients a duty of care to do everything in a patient's best interest to keep him or her from unnecessary harm or suffering. For car accidents, this simply means that all drivers owe nearby drivers and pedestrians a duty of care to drive safely and responsibly and obey all traffic laws. For premises liability cases and third-party wrongful death claims, you will need to determine which party is liable for the safety of the premises or the defective item that caused your loved one's death. To secure the wrongful death documents in this case, you may need to track down the contract between a contractor and a landlord that proves it was indeed this person who failed to secure the fire escape ladder that unhinged and led to his or her demise.
Tax Returns and Family RecordsTo calculate the value of your wrongful death claim, your attorney must be able to estimate the financial and emotional impact the loss of your loved one will have on your family. If the victim was a head of household and contributed to the family finances, his or her lost wages - accounted for with the wrongful death documents of pay stubs -will be a large portion of the settlement you will seek. In addition to recovering from your financial losses in the wake of your loved one's death, you also will need to prove the emotional losses of the family. A spouse can claim loss of consortium, especially for long marriages. Children and other dependents can claim loss of parental support and guidance. Evidence that the family has sought grief counseling or other mental health care will also be important evidence of the emotional impact an unexpected and tragic death has on a family.