The four tests of a wrongful death case

Few things in life are more intense and unsettling than the unexpected death of someone you love.  Shock, denial and anger can leave family members in a highly fragile and emotional state.  Add to this the financial and legal implications that a family must inevitably face, and the trauma can be ongoing or permanent.

There will be numerous important decisions to make, and with an impaired decision-making process, you run the risk of saying and doing things that may only serve to hurt you more in the long term.  For Portland residents experiencing this sad situation, you need help and protection, as well as a clear and steady hand that can only come by adding a seasoned wrongful death attorney to your team.

In seeking damages for your loss, an attorney must prove four elements to be able to meet the test that another person was liable.  They include:

Duty – It must be shown that the individual who caused the wrongful death had a duty to protect the person that died by not acting negligently or recklessly, and in a way where a potential death could have been foreseen if they did act in such a manner.  For example, a person has a duty to not drink and drive.

Breach of Duty – Did the person who caused the death act in such a way that failed to meet the standard of care required in a given situation.  i.e. Did the defendant actually drink and then drive?

Causation – An attorney must be able to show that the defendant’s actions were the actual cause of the wrongful death.  On the surface, this sounds simple, but a good defense attorney may introduce several factors that could cloud a clear path to causation. i.e. It was dark, raining and there was road construction going on in addition to the defendant who had been drinking prior to an accident.

Damages – Did the wrongful death produce a significant loss and financial damages to the surviving members of the victim’s family?  In some courts, the guesswork is removed, and formulas are used to come up with a monetary number for the damages.  Courts may use a victim’s age, occupation, current financial contributions and other elements to determine an actual dollar figure.


Dawson Law Group serves Portland and surrounding Oregon communities.