Understanding Connecticut’s Wrongful Death Statute

Posted on 03/30/22

If someone that you loved recently passed away in a preventable accident or because of the crimes of another person, your family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Connecticut in pursuit of financial compensation. These are complicated cases that come with various rules and statutes that must be followed by the claimant. Below is a breakdown of some of the most important aspects of Connecticut’s wrongful death statute.

What Is Wrongful Death?

The full text of Connecticut’s wrongful death statute can be found in Connecticut General Assembly, Chapter 925, Section 52-555. This law for actions for injuries resulting in death states that an executor or administrator of the deceased individual’s (decedent’s) estate may file a claim to recover compensation from the party legally at fault for such injuries. Legal fault can be based on a claim of negligence, medical malpractice or intent to harm.

Negligence is the failure to adhere to the acceptable duty or obligation of care for a situation, such as the neglect of a driver to pay attention to the road in a fatal car accident case. Medical malpractice means that a health care practitioner fell short of the medical industry’s standard of care in treating a patient. Intent to harm is a defendant’s purposeful actions meant to harm or kill a victim. 

What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?

Unlike a criminal case, holding someone financially responsible (liable) for wrongful death does not require proof of intent to kill the victim or the commission of a crime. Instead, a wrongful death claim in Connecticut only requires proof that the decedent’s death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s wrongful or negligent act or omission. This must be established based on a preponderance of the evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden of proof means that what the plaintiff is claiming is true with at least a 51 percent probability.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Connecticut?

According to Connecticut law, only an executor or administrator of a decedent’s estate may file a wrongful death cause of action. This is different from many other states that allow family members to file wrongful death lawsuits. The decedent may have named an executor in his or her will prior to death. If not, the courts can assign someone for the job, such as a family member or attorney.

Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Be Filed if There Is Already a Criminal Case?

Yes. A single defendant can face both criminal and civil liability for the same death. Even though both cases may use the same set of facts, the burden of proof is different, as is the goal of the case. A criminal case intends to punish the defendant for committing a crime, while a civil case is designed to make a victim whole again. It may be in your best interest to wait to file your wrongful death claim until after the conclusion of a criminal case against the defendant. While a conviction for a crime is not necessary to establish wrongful death, it could be used as evidence.

What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Connecticut?

Connecticut’s wrongful death statute also places a time limit on the right to file this cause of action. The law states that no action shall be brought to recover damages but within two years from the date of death (the statute of limitations), and no more than five years from the date that the act or omission accrued (the statute of repose). This means that your family generally has no more than two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file the paperwork to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, the courts will most likely refuse to hear your case.

For personalized assistance navigating Connecticut’s wrongful death statute, contact The Law Offices of James A. Welcome to request a free consultation with a Waterbury wrongful death lawyer.