In Oregon, wrongful death actions are governed by statute. The people that may bring a wrongful death action include spouses, children and parents of the deceased. The action is brought by the personal representative of the decedent for the benefit of such person or persons. Also included are step children and step parents, and person(s) that would be entitled to inherit part of the estate of the decedent through the law of intestate succession – this last part means that other relatives could potentially benefit from such an action, although those circumstances will tend to be limited.

The action may be maintained when the death is caused by the wrongful act or omission (a failure to act) of another, so long as the decedent could have maintained an action against the wrongdoer if he or she was still alive. The statute of limitations is three years for wrongful death actions. Damages include:

  • Medical expenses, funeral and burial costs
  • Pain, suffering and loss of income of the decedent prior to death
  • Monetary loss to the estate
  • Compensation for monetary loss, and loss of companionship and services
  • Punitive damages if applicable

Typical fact patterns for wrongful death actions might be an auto collision case causing death where the other driver was negligent, or where a person was killed by a drunk driver. The drunk driver scenario may give rise to “dram shop” (bar or server) liability in addition to the liability of the drunk driver. A wrongful death action may also arise out of a battery (an assault and battery type situation); in general the term “battery” means some kind of physical attack. Also, medical malpractice might give rise to a wrongful death action.

This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice. Anyone seeking legal advice in a potential wrongful death matter should consult with a qualified attorney.