If you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, this is a very painful and emotional time for you. You may have all of your friends and family rallying around you, possibly pushing you to sue, all with the best of intentions. A wrongful death lawsuit may be completely appropriate in your case, but you need to know what it really is and what it isn’t, before you go that route. An experienced and reputable wrongful death attorney will look at the unique circumstances in your case and give you honest answers about whether you have a case and what to expect. In the meantime, here are some basic facts that you need to know about wrongful death.
Wrongful Death is Not a Murder Trial
Sometimes the hardest pill to swallow is what wrongful death does not accomplish. Wrongful death is a civil, not criminal, matter. Nobody goes to jail. It’s not going to happen. It is meant to compensate you, with money, for the losses you incur as a result of your loved one’s death. Punishment is rarely involved, and when it is it comes in the form of punitive damages which is more money the wrongdoer has to pay.
The upside to this is that there is a lower standard of proof required. Since no one is in jeopardy of losing their life or their freedom, you do not need to prove “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”. In many cases, a wrongful death lawsuit is very winnable even where criminal charges failed.
Each State is Different, and Laws Change
If you already know a little about wrongful death, it probably doesn’t mean anything in your case. The laws are different in each state, and even in the same state, what applied last year may not apply today.
Eligible beneficiaries differ from state to state. In general, the surviving spouse and minor children get the highest priority, and other relatives may or may not be eligible. The types of damages available also differ from state to state. And, the time limits for filing your lawsuit are different in each state and can even be different within your state from one type of wrongful death lawsuit to another. For instance, you may have a much shorter amount of time to file in a medical malpractice wrongful death suit than you would in wrongful death resulting from a car accident.
To learn more about wrongful death and what it means to you, please, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney today.