wrongful death

The Difference Between Wrongful and Accidental Death

The difference between wrongful and accidental death is significant. If a person died due to an accident, no parties can be held responsible but if the accident was due to another person’s negligence, there may be grounds for legal action. Continue reading for more information about wrongful death, accidental death, and legal options.

Accidental Death

Accidental death refers to a death that has occurred due to an unfortunate or unforeseen event. Death due to natural causes, such as heart attack or stroke, is often considered accidental. In such cases, no party can be held responsible, and the death is considered to be an act of fate.

For example, if a person is driving on the highway and a tree branch suddenly falls on the car, causing a fatal injury to the driver, it would be considered an accidental death. In such cases, legal action cannot be taken against any party as no one was responsible for the death.

Wrongful Death

Wrongful death, on the other hand, occurs due to the negligence or wrongful conduct of a person or entity. In other words, if a person dies due to the actions or inaction of another individual or organization, it is considered a wrongful death.

A wrongful death may result from:

  • Carelessness
  • Negligence
  • Intentional action
  • Criminal conduct

For instance, if a doctor fails to diagnose and treat a patient's cancer properly, and the patient dies from the disease, it could be considered wrongful death. In such cases, the surviving family members of the deceased can file a legal claim against the responsible party seeking compensation for their loss.

Wrongful Death vs. Homicide

While wrongful death may occur at the hands of others, it is different from a criminal homicide case. For starters, a wrongful death lawsuit is not the purview of a criminal court but a civil one. Additionally, a homicide involves intention which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Wrongful death lawsuits on the other hand must only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence meaning it is more likely than not that the case was due to negligence.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In general, the survivors of the deceased can potentially file a wrongful death lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, the following groups may qualify:

  • Immediate family members
  • Life partners
  • Financial dependents
  • Distant family members
  • Parents
  • Anyone who suffers financially

It is crucial that anyone seeking justice on behalf of their deceased loved ones consult with an attorney prior to filing.

Legal Options

In cases of wrongful death, surviving loved ones of the deceased can file a lawsuit seeking damages against the negligent party. Damages could include compensation for funeral expenses, medical bills, lost income, and loss of companionship.

It is essential to note that wrongful death claims are subject to specific statutes of limitations, which vary by state. In Oklahoma, the limit is two years after death. Thus, it is crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide the family members through the legal process and protect their rights.


In conclusion, while both accidental and wrongful deaths are tragic, understanding the difference between the two is vital. If a death resulted from an accident, no one can be held legally responsible, but if it was due to the negligence of another person or entity, there may be grounds for legal action. At Nichols Dixon PLLC, we advocate for our clients and treat them with the compassion and care they deserve. If you have lost a loved one and believe their death was due to negligence, you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.

Contact Nichols Dixon PLLC today to learn more.