When a death results from the misconduct or negligence of another party, surviving family members can take the responsible party to court for wrongful death.
A majority of lawsuits are filed in the wake of criminal trials which involve a death. The defendant, in this instance, is held accountable for the death of a person who died during the commission of a crime. Whether or not the defendant intended harm or did not directly cause harm, they are responsible by law.
One of the most famous wrongful death lawsuits involved O.J. Simpson. In 1994, the former athlete and actor was found not guilty of murder but was still found liable in the wrongful death suit filed by the families of the victims. The civil matter was not held to the same standards as a criminal trial, allowing the wrongful death attorney to move forward on a preponderance of the evidence.
Before a wrongful death suit can be filed, the following components need to be in place.
- Only a personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file the suit.
- There has to be the death of a human being.
- This death has to be the result of a third party’s actions that caused harm or the result of their negligence.
- There has to be a monetary injury to surviving family members as a result of the death.
In a wrongful death action, the main measure of damages is pecuniary (financial) injury. Any settlement will be gauged based on loss of support, services and prospective inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. The age, condition and character of the deceased will be factored in, as well as earning potential, health, intelligence, life expectancy and circumstances of the death. While it sounds straightforward, it is a complicated matter, especially when the defense side is arguing against compensation.
A suit in this matter can be volatile and emotionally draining. That’s why it is imperative to have a good wrongful death attorney on your side of the table, ensuring the rights and memory of your loved one are respected.