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What is Death by Negligence?

What is Death by Negligence?

Death by negligence typically refers to what New Jersey law considers a wrongful death case. A Northern New Jersey wrongful death attorney will define this as a kind of personal injury case brought on behalf of the deceased against a negligent party–someone whose careless behavior resulted in the victim’s death. Establishing gross negligence is a key part of any successful personal injury claim, and in this article I’ll describe each of the necessary pieces for any death by negligence case.

Elements of Negligence

Any experienced personal injury lawyer serving Northern New Jersey can tell you the elements of negligence. These are the components that must be established for a plaintiff to prove that a defendant was negligent and therefore liable for damages. In other words, these are the four things that will make an effective death by negligence claim.

The four elements to prove negligence are Duty, Breach of Duty, Causation, and Damages. I’ll cover these in more detail below.

1. Duty

You must show that the defendant had a legal duty to exercise reasonable care towards the plaintiff. In general, the circumstances of the incident define the details of the duty of care. Some common examples include:

  • Property owners, including homeowners, employers, and businesses, have a duty to ensure that their property is reasonably safe for visitors, employees, or customers. This includes addressing hazards such as slippery floors, uneven surfaces, or inadequate lighting.
  • Motorists have a duty to operate their vehicle in a manner that is safe. This includes following traffic laws, avoiding distractions, and maintaining control of the vehicle.
  • Doctors and other medical professionals have a duty to provide medical care that meets the accepted standard of care for their specialty. In other words, this duty requires them to act in a manner that another comparable professional would under similar circumstances.
  • Manufacturers have a duty to produce products that are reasonably safe for their intended use. This includes providing appropriate warnings and instructions for use.

2. Breach of Duty

Once the duty of care is established, the plaintiff in a death by negligence case must prove how the defendant breached that duty by failing to meet the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in the same or similar circumstances.

This will likely be very particular to the case and the circumstances of the established duty of care. In the case of negligence by a medical provider, this falls under medical malpractice, including things like misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medication errors, or surgical errors. In the case of a product manufacturer’s negligence, it will likely fall under product liability law, which may focus on design defects, manufacturing defects, or a failure to warn.

3. Causation

The next step in proving negligence is establishing that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injury or damages (which I discuss next). In other words, the plaintiff must show that their injury or damages would not have happened if the defendant had not acted negligently.

4. Damages

This refers to the actual harm caused by the breach of duty of the defendant. In death by negligence or wrongful death lawsuits, this would be the death of a loved one. In New Jersey, unfortunately, a plaintiff in a wrongful death case cannot sue for emotional or punitive damages. However, they can sue for pecuniary (financial) damages. Some examples include lost wages, funeral expenses, and related medical bills of the deceased.

Working with an Attorney

If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, get in touch with Buttafuoco & Associates. We have worked on hundreds of personal injury claims, our experienced wrongful death attorneys in Northern New Jersey can guide you through this process and recover the compensation you need to heal.

Call 1-800-NOW-HURT today for a free consultation.


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