What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

Most of us are familiar with the term “wrongful death lawsuit,” if only because of high profile cases like the death of pop star Michael Jackson and the civil case involving OJ Simpson. However, very few people actually understand fully what this term means.


Separate from criminal charges, a wrongful death proceeding does not affect and is not affected by what happens in criminal court. This is why a defendant like OJ Simpson can be acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, yet still be sued and ruled against in the wrongful death civil action brought by Ron Goldman’s family.

Wrongful death actions can be applied to both intentional and unintentional acts that result in death. A pre-meditated intent to harm does not have to be present. Often times, wrongful death actions are the result of carelessness, negligence, or an accident.

In fact, wrongful death claims can be brought in a wide variety of circumstances. In Minnesota, wrongful death cases could include:

Car accidents or public transportation accidents
Construction accidents
Medical mistakes
Work-related exposure to dangerous conditions or substances
Product malfunction or defects
Accidents resulting from the illegal sale of alcohol

In Minnesota, a close family member, like a spouse, child, or parent of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Suits are brought to court by a family-appointed trustee (typically a family member) to represent them in the filing.

Wrongful death compensation is limited to financial or emotional losses such as loss of income, companionship, advice or protection.


The sooner you file, the better. Dependent upon the circumstances of the death, the time in which you can legally file may be limited. According to Minnesota Statue 573.02, you have either 3 or 6 years to file, for most cases, from the date of death. However, “an action to recover damages for a death caused by an intentional act constituting murder may be commenced at any time after the death of the decedent.”

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