Proving Wrongful Death in a Civil Case
Importance of a Lawyer to Prove your Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death is defined as a fatality that is caused by the negligence of a person or entity. Those who survive the dead typically have the legal right to sue the neglectful person or entity for damages. All of these cases are classified as wrongful death lawsuits according to any expert Los Angeles personal injury attorney.
Wrongful death cases are a type of civil suit that awards monetary damages. This is very different from a criminal case as there is no district attorney that files against the neglectful party. As a general rule of thumb, criminal cases are those that award some type of punishment to the neglectful party, such as a fine or imprisonment. A civil case, as defined by a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles is one where surviving family members can receive monetary damages from the neglectful party.
Understanding Legal Terminology Surrounding A Wrongful Death Suit
An attorney will reveal to you that there are two main parties involved in a wrongful death suit. The first is the plaintiff. This is defined as the person who is bringing the claim against a neglectful party on behalf of their family member or heir that is deceased.
In cases where the deceased party has a will, they often have an appointed executor or personal representative. This is the person that oversees the estate and its distribution. They are typically the person that brings up the claim on behalf of the deceased person according to most lawyers.
The defendant is the opposing party that the lawsuit was brought up against. As revealed earlier, this can be against a person or an entity. The only requirement is that the party must have intentionally or negligently acted in a way that resulted in the deceased person’s death. For example, if your loved one was killed in a car accident that involved a drunk driver, the drunk driver would be the defendant in this case.
Your Los Angeles accident injury lawyer will tell you that to successfully win your case, you need to prove that the defendant was neglectful. And, you need to show that the death of your loved one resulted from that neglect. To help you better understand what’s required, let’s take a look at the three key elements that you’ll need to prove for your legal case to be successful.
Duty Of Care
Your wrongful death accident attorney in Los Angeles will reveal that the first component in winning your case successfully is proving that the defendant owed the deceased a duty of care. To make this easier to understand, let’s take a look at a quick example. In the case of a roadway accident that resulted in the death of your loved one, you can state that the defendant had a duty of care to obey the traffic laws and drive their vehicle safely.
Breach Of Their Duty Of Care
Next, your wrongful death attorney will need to show that the defendant breached their duty of care. Following the same situation as above, this could be that the defendant blew through a stop sign without stopping. By running the stop sign, the defendant didn’t obey the traffic laws and, therefore, breached their duty of care.
While it may be easy to show that the defendant had a duty of care and they breached it, your case isn’t proven successful there. Rather, you’ll need to prove how the defendant’s breach of their duty of care led to the death of your loved one. The defendant in the example above can’t be held responsible for the death of your loved one if their actions weren’t directly responsible for the death of your loved one.
A Look At The Burden Of Proof
In each of these three categories of proof above, you’ll be expected to prove a burden of proof. The definition of this burden varies depending on the state that you’re in. Some states regard this burden of proof as determining whether or not the defendant’s actions were more likely than not to result in the wrongful death of the deceased person.
The general idea behind the burden of proof is that the plaintiff is able to show credible and quality sources on their behalf. It’s not always about quantity, as the defendant can present more witnesses than you. It’s about the quality of your evidence that sways in your favor. You must fully meet the burden of proof in all of the three categories above to be awarded any damages from the plaintiff.
Your wrongful death lawsuit attorneys will be able to apprise you of the likeliness that your case will be settled out of court. Most wrongful death suits tend to be settled prior to ever making it to trial. If your case does make it to court, it will depend on what state you are in whether your case is decided by a judge or jury. In most states that have a jury decide the outcome of your case, there is no need for a unanimous verdict.
There are various types of damages that you can recover in a wrongful death case. These include the following:
- Lost Wages
- Lost Companionship
- Funeral Expenses
Who Can Bring Up A Lawsuit Against The Neglectful Party?
If your loved one passed away due to an accident, then you should hold the neglectful party responsible. While the executor of the deceased person’s estate is usually the person who brings up suit against the neglectful party, that’s not always the case. There are other people who have the right to sue.
Immediate Family Members – Immediate family members including children and spouses are able to sue an offending party for damages.
Life Partners – A life partner or domestic partner has the right to sue. This category also includes those who were financially dependent on the deceased.
Distant Family Members – Depending on the state that you live in, distant family members can sue such as grandparents, sisters, and brothers.
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