Wrongful deaths occur as a result of the intentional acts or negligence of another person or entity. A small minority of such cases might involve a fatality caused by a dangerously defective product.
All 50 states have wrongful death statutes in one form or another that permit the heirs of a decedent to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages. Wrongful death cases are heard in the civil courts rather than the criminal courts. Because they’re civil actions, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. A preponderance of the evidence means something is more likely true than not true.
Obviously a civil wrongful death case can spin off of a criminal murder, but most wrongful death lawsuits don’t involve murders. Nobody is insured for a murder, but people are generally insured for negligence. That’s why most wrongful death cases involve:
Each state’s wrongful death statute designates who is allowed to bring a wrongful death action. Every state allows immediate family members like a husband, wife or a child to bring an action. Other states allow domestic partners or anybody who was financially dependent on the decedent. Some states even allow the action to be brought by more distant relatives like siblings or grandparents.
Along with a wrongful death count, most wrongful death lawsuits also contain what’s known as a survival count for damages suffered between the time of injury and time of death.
Wrongful death cases are vigorously defended due to the large amounts of money involved. An experienced, respected and aggressive wrongful death attorney should be retained to guide clients through the highly complicated litigation process.
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