There were 33,244 fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2019. Depending on the circumstances behind the accidents, the relatives of the deceased victim may file a wrongful death suit.
This type of claim is a very specific type of personal injury lawsuit that requires the plaintiff to convince a jury that the deceased victim died due to negligence or intent. We’ll explore the legal aspects of this type of civil litigation.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
Although this suit involves a deceased victim, the aim of the court proceeding is not to find an alleged perpetrator criminally guilty of a crime. Wrongful death suits are civil suits, meaning a jury verdict of guilty will not result in jail time.
Many wrongful death cases involve car accidents. In fact, drunk drivers often find themselves in such cases. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is reckless, and can even be found criminal if the act resulted in a fatality. Also, a truck driver who did not take the required rest time could be liable in court if he or she causes an accident.
Wrongful Deaths Cases Versus Criminal Cases
A wrongful death case has no bearing on a criminal case. Someone can be found criminally guilty of a crime but not culpable in this type of case. Alternatavitvley, the guilty party may have to pay a settlement.
A wrongful death case can bring closure to relatives of the deceased. Then, a settlement is awarded to the deceased’s estate. This monetary amount can range from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands or much more, depending on the nature of the case.
How Cases Are Proven
Wrongful death lawyers must prove that a death was caused by the actions of someone else. Additionally, it must also be proven that the death was intentional or unintentional. An unintentional death is one where death occurs as the result of negligence. A driver dozing off and hitting a pedestrian is one example of negligence.
However, intentional harm, like murder, qualifies as a criminal case. Oftentimes, this wouldn’t apply in a car-related wrongful death. Even when a case appears to be straightforward, you’ll still need a good lawyer to prove your case.
Arguments Made During Wrongful Death Cases
In court, an attorney may argue that the death resulted in financial hardship for the surviving relatives. This is one of the reasons that cases are only brought by individuals who represent the deceased victim’s estate.
Proving Driver Negligence
When making the case that the driver was negligent, an attorney begins by reminding the jury that driving laws require drivers to take reasonable care when driving. Reasonable care requires drivers to be sober and alert while adhering to all road signage.
If a driver was too close to a pedestrian or bicycle lane, that would be one sign of negligence on the part of the driver. Excessive speed in violation of posted signs would be another. The wrongful death lawyer would then connect the lack of reasonable care to the death. These violations are proven using a police report, eyewitness testimonies, camera footage, or other sources of information.
Juries will consider the lost income that resulted from the deceased involved in an auto accident. If a parent earned $75,000 a year and had 20 years of working years left, a settlement would likely consider the earning potential of the deceased victim.
Duty of Due Care
A wrongful death attorney must prove that the defendant had a duty of care. A semi-truck driver, for example, is responsible for taking rest between trips.
For example, driving under the influence breaches a duty of care, as all motorists must be sober and capable of operating their vehicles. This is why drunk driving accidents account for a large percentage of cases that involve motor vehicles.
The attorney must then prove that there was a breach of duty. This is another way of saying that the individual failed in his or her expected responsibilities and the death resulted from that failure.
Then, the lawyer must prove that there was a causal relationship between the actions of the person facing the accusation of causing wrongful death and the deceased victim. A lawyer may rely on videos, testimonies, and medical autopsies.
Compensation and Punitive Damages
Monetary compensation is a common result of a wrongful death case. Each state will calculate this amount based on existing statutes. The cost of a funeral and lost wages are two common factors a judge will use to calculate compensation. A judge may consider compensation based on several factors that could include:
- Pain and suffering of (survival claim)
- Medical costs spent before the death
- The loss of inheritance
- Value of the services the decedent would have provided
- The loss of companionship to the spouse
Punitive damages seek to punish the individual who caused the death. Punitive damages aren’t necessarily based on a specific cost incurred by the deceased victim’s family. Rather, the monetary amount is awarded as a punishment.
Trusted Wrongful Death Attorneys
A successful case can allow the deceased victim’s family to financially and emotionally recover following a tragic and avoidable death. The wrongful death attorneys at Alpha Accident Lawyers will walk you through the details of your case. While you focus on recovering, we’ll fight to see that you are compensated for your loss.
Please, schedule your free consultation with us today.