Wrongful death lawsuits are claims made by the representative of a deceased individual against a defendant for negligence or intentional harm which directly contributed to the individual’s death. Sounds complex. It is. We are here to help explain things a little better.
When do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Happen?
There are many situations in which wrongful death lawsuits can be filed, but we can give you an easy rule of thumb to make things easier. If a victim could have filed a personal injury claim as a direct result of negligence or harm, then those surviving the victim may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
It is important to note that wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases, not criminal. Medical malpractice related deaths and accident fatalities are two events that often result in wrongful death lawsuits.
Proving Wrongful Death
Most Americans are familiar with the phrase, “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the standard that must be upheld for a defendant to be found guilty in a criminal proceeding. This is different in civil proceedings, of which wrongful death lawsuits are part of. The standard of proof in civil proceedings requires a “preponderance of the evidence.”
This standard is not as strict as the one held in criminal trails. This typically means it is easier to find someone guilty in a civil wrongful death lawsuit than it is in a criminal trial. A well known example of this happening involved OJ Simpson. He was acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in criminal court, but he was found liable for the deaths in civil court.
The first wrongful death suit occurred in the United Kingdom, in the year 1846. It created the precedent for wrongful death lawsuits which later travelled over to the United States.