When someone’s death is caused by another person’s inaction or negligent action, loved ones may be able to assert a wrongful death lawsuit. The responsible person’s “negligence” is generally the result of carelessness or wrongdoing. Wrongful death cases can also arise after a deliberate violent act as well.
Why would anyone bring a wrongful death lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit allows family members to get money damages following the loss of their loved one. These damages are meant to help the family recover financially after losing someone who provided care and support to their family.
While money can never replace the loss of a loved one, it helps deal with the reality that someone who previously provided support is now gone. Unfortunately, it is the only remedy that the law has to deal with this very difficult situation.
What is the difference between a wrongful death case and a criminal case?
Situations that give rise to a wrongful death action also often trigger criminal prosecution, such as in drunk driving incidents or deliberate actions that lead to the death of your loved one. You may think that the criminal case is the only legal recourse that your family has in this situation, but that is not the case.
The results in a criminal case and a civil case are very different.
The criminal action often results in jail time and fines. A civil action (the wrongful death case) results in money damages awarded to the family. While the criminal case can sometimes award the victim’s family some amount of restitution, that is not the same as the monetary damages you can get in a wrongful death case. The goals of both of those legal processes are very different.
The standard of proof is much higher in a criminal case.
Proving a criminal case is harder than proving a civil case. The evidentiary standards are different. In a criminal case, the defendant has to be convicted “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but the civil case uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
The preponderance of the evidence standard is often referred to as being “more than 50% sure” that the actions (or inactions) took place and caused the death of your loved one. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a much higher standard that requires a jury to essentially have no doubt that the accused is the wrongdoer and their actions resulted in the harm.
How do you prove a wrongful death case?
As the plaintiff, you have the burden to prove that you and your family deserve the money damages that you are requesting because of the death of your loved one. Proving your case requires showing:
- Duty. The other person (or entity) had a legal obligation to your loved one. In a car accident, for example, everyone has the duty to drive in a reasonable manner based on the conditions of the road.
- Breach. The wrongdoer breached or violated that duty to your loved one.
- Causation. The wrongdoer’s actions led to the death of your loved one.
- Damages. You, as a family member, suffered damages because of the loss of your loved one.
Proving each of these elements can be a challenge, but it is easier than asserting a criminal case.
The team at East Valley Injury Law can help you with this process by gathering and presenting the evidence you need to show a judge, jury, or even an insurance company why you should receive money damages after losing your loved one.
Learn more by contacting our team to schedule a free consultation.