Paying for the death of someone else seems like an odd concept when you think about it. However, the origins of wrongful death reach far back in time. To truly understand why we have payment for the negligent death of someone else, you need to look at where the concept originated. Here is a brief history of wrongful death
Where It All Started
Wrongful death payment can be traced all the way back to the 8th century in the famous poem of Beowulf. Grendel refuses to repay his debt for all his killing. In the 13th century, in an Icelandic poem. Loki, Odin and Hoenir were asked to pay for the killing of the son of Otr. There are numerous other historical accounts of payment for death that establish that this was a pretty common expectation, even back before a modern legal system existed.
Legal Term “Wrongful Death”
The term wrongful death stems from Frankish law, which was adopted by the English and then the United States. Wrongful death was referred to as “Weregild” which translates to, “Man price”. It was a price you paid to keep the peace between families and tribes. If someone were killed, the guilty party would be required to pay restitution to the victim’s family. At the time the Frenkish law was created, revenge killing was common. Payment could prevent further killing and would help the family recover from the death of a wage-earning family member.
Today’s Wrongful Death
Today, negligent parties may be required to pay families who have lost either a parent, child or spouse. The payment is to help with payment for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. It helps families with the financial strain losing a loved one can have.