If a person suffers a personal injury but doesn’t have a chance to claim before passing away, then there could be a chance to alter that claim and make it a wrongful death lawsuit. The defining factor is whether or not the initial injury and death are related. For instance, if a person suffers a concussion and then swelling on the brain results in death, that injury could be related. However, a broken back may not be related to a sudden aneurysm. Likewise, a virus causing pneumonia may not be related to a drowning injury, whereas a bacteria leading to it could be.
If the personal injury suffered does result in death, the person responsible for the deceased’s estate may be able to claim for the death. The case will be civil in nature at that point; the person suing will be looking for compensation. That’s in contrast to a criminal case, which is filed by the authorities.
For instance, in a drunk driving accident, you can file a claim against the driver for compensation. The police could file a charge for the drunk driving in criminal court. You may be able to speak against the drunk driver in court, but your claim will still remain in a civil court of law.
Even if the person who passed away never had a job, there are still types of compensation you should be able to receive. For instance, a loss of consortium, which is when you lose someone you love such as a spouse, can compensate you for that loss. This kind of loss is what’s called a pecuniary loss.
Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful Death FAQ,” accessed Dec. 31, 2015