When someone passes away due to the negligence of others, the family of the victim often seeks to punish the negligent parties through a wrongful death lawsuit. Most people are familiar with the concept of a wrongful death lawsuit, but the details regarding these types of cases can often be elusive.
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed in a civil court, as are all personal injury lawsuits. Since these types of actions utilize the civil court system, they are completely independent of the criminal courts. In the most famous example of how this relationship works, O.J. Simpson was acquitted in a criminal court of the murder of his wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, but he was found responsible for their wrongful deaths in a civil court.
The rules for filing and administering a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state, but the one common thread each state has is that only a personal representative of the victim's estate is allowed to file these types of suits. It is important to note that this does not mean that any family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a victim. That family member must be a legal representative of the victim's estate for the lawsuit to be valid.
A wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the negligent acts of another party. That means that any situation that can result in someone's death would qualify as grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. These situations include:
The family or estate of the victim must have experienced certain types of consequences before a court will hear a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of those conditions include:
Before a family or estate hires a lawyer to file a wrongful death lawsuit, there are criteria that must be met. That criteria includes:
The jury's decision in a wrongful death lawsuit is only the beginning of the process to award damages to the family. If the court determines that the victim was constantly spending their money to the determent of the family, then that could cause the court to lower the amount of damages being awarded.
The death of a loved one is always an emotionally devastating event. But that event can take on a whole new set of emotions when that death was the result of someone else's negligence. If your family feels that your loved one died as the direct result of someone else's negligence, then you need to contact a lawyer immediately and start the process for filing your wrongful death lawsuit.