What is Wrongful Death Law in Personal Injury?
Wrongful death law is there to protect surviving family after a tragedy. Wrongful death is a tragedy under any circumstances. No one wants to think about the loss of a loved one. When a person is in good health, enjoying a successful life only to pass away suddenly in an accident, there is immense trauma. Whether Medical Malpractice, accident, or Negligent Security, were the cause of the death, the victim’s surviving family members have the right to bring litigation against the party at fault.
This writeup will approach wrongful death law by answering important questions:
- Why is the financial burden so high?
- Why does civil law differ from criminal law in wrongful death cases?
- What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
- What’s necessary for a claim to proceed?
- How does wrongful death occur?
- What’s considered a successful outcome in wrongful death cases?
- Why do surviving family members require an experienced wrongful death lawyer?
Why is the financial burden so high?
The financial burden of wrongful death is enormous. While nothing replaces the loss of a loved one, life must go on. Bills must be paid. Understanding this, the financial burden upon a family after a loss causes mental anguish. A once financially stable family can be thrown into chaos, risk losing their home and stability when the head of household passes away.
A lawyer familiar with wrongful death law can obtain financial compensation on behalf of a surviving family. During trial, financial compensation obtained for the victim’s family can help reduce stress, medical bills, and funeral expenses incurred.
Does civil law differ from criminal law in wrongful death cases?
The short answer is “yes”. However, regardless of liability, the negligent party may not be convicted of a crime in association with the death. Therefore, in this writeup we will be looking at wrongful death law in the area of Personal Injury from the standpoint of a Board Certified civil trial lawyer.
What is the “standard of proof” in Personal Injury Law?
The first thing we’ll approach is the legal principle known as preponderance of evidence versus what’s frequently mistaken for beyond a reasonable doubt.
In civil cases, “standard of proof” is what the law calls a preponderance of evidence.
To better understand this in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit and, as it pertains to Personal Injury Law, let’s look at the legal definition of the term:
“[…]the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil (non-criminal) lawsuit for the trier of fact (jury or judge without a jury) to decide in favor of one side or the other.”
Looking at the context of a civil lawsuit in regards specifically to Personal Injury, the court would use “preponderance of evidence” to determine the standard of proof, not “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is found in criminal court cases.
However, as we go more in-depth readers will note the “standard of proof” is only one area of a wrongful death lawsuit. Many factors are necessary for a successful verdict. In cases of wrongful death, the client would be the surviving family members of the victim. Several elements go into a lawyer successfully obtaining compensation when wrongful death occurs.
What’s necessary for a claim to proceed?
Next, let’s list the aspects necessary to make up a successful wrongful death lawsuit. A successful lawsuit results in a verdict that awards maximum compensation for surviving family:
- The death of a human being
- The death must be caused by the negligence of another or with intent (to cause harm, to maim or kill) such as through medical malpractice or negligent security
- Surviving family who suffer financial injury because of the loss
- Appointing of a personal representative for the deceased’s estate
What does wrongful death law cover?
The circumstances for litigation in a wrongful death lawsuit make up the rest of a successful verdict:
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home abuse and/or neglect
- Occupational exposure that are not considered occupational hazards (i.e.: toxic substances, hazardous conditions, negligent security)
- Criminal actions such as assault, battery, or a shooting
- Death during an activity with supervision
What’s considered a successful outcome in wrongful death cases?
Financial injury is the measure of damages used specifically in wrongful death law. This is also known as “pecuniary injuries”. These can include: loss of support, termination of inheritances, medical and funeral expenses for the deceased, and any other financial needs that are no longer met for the family after death.
It’s also important to look at how “pecuniary loss” is determined by law, and in the next section we will do so.
First, financial injury must be determined. The age and health of the victim, the victim’s earning capacity, their original life expectancy and intelligence are all considered. This step in litigation usually occurs during trial. Furthermore, the surviving family members circumstances are also taken into consideration by the judge during this phase of the case.
How are circumstances of a death appropriately determined?
The main thing the court will look at when determining damages to be awarded are the circumstances surrounding the deceased at the time of his or her death.
- Loss of income. If unemployed at the time of death, a jury considers the victim’s last known earnings. They will award damages based in part on this information, as well as the potential for future earnings, now lost.
- Loss of a parent. Parental guidance is a factor when determining damages.
- If the deceased had dependents at the time of death, their children are considered.
Why do surviving family members require an experienced wrongful death lawyer?
A lawyer with Board Certification and experience can help mitigate the mental anguish that results from wrongful death.
It’s important to act quickly, because the Statute of Limitations in the state of Florida is (2) two years from the time of a wrongful death. If clients exceed the Statute of Limitations, the case will be dismissed no matter how valid the claim.
These cases are not straightforward. In fact, these claims are more complicated for younger lawyers without much experience. This is why a Board Certified lawyer’s experience and prior successes with similar cases are of utmost importance. When retaining legal representation, looking for a Firm with multi million dollar wrongful death law verdicts is a must.