If someone murders a member of your family and that person is found not guilty, is that the end of your quest for justice?
The answer is ‘no,’ because the law gives you the right to file a civil suit against the person you believe killed your loved one.
This is known as a wrongful death claim, and it may provide you with justice after a not guilty verdict in a criminal case.
What Are the Elements of Wrongful Death?
The main elements in a wrongful death claim, include:
- Someone was killed
- That person’s death was caused by the negligence of the defendant, who intended to cause harm to the deceased.
- The deceased person’s surviving family members suffered financial losses because of the death.
And unlike the burden in a criminal case, in which the state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard in a wrongful death claim is a ‘preponderance of the evidence.’
This means that a reasonable person would find it more likely than not that the defendant caused the death of another person.
One of the most famous successful wrongful death claims was the civil suit filed against former football star O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman.
In that case, the lawyer for the Brown and Simpson families had to prove that Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were killed by the negligence or misconduct of O.J. Simpson, who intended them harm when he confronted them on the night of June 12, 1994.
Simpson was found personally liable of intentionally causing the two deaths, and the jury awarded the families $33.5 million in damages, which was later increased to $58 million.
One of the major differences in a wrongful death civil suit as opposed to a criminal case is that the defendant cannot invoke the right not to testify.
This means that the plaintiff can compel the defendant through a subpoena to answer questions.
The other difference is that when defendants are found liable in a wrongful death suit, they must pay monetary damages, but do not have to go to prison.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
There is no way to minimize the pain of losing a loved one to a violent act. But filing a wrongful death claim can at the very least hold the person responsible for that death accountable. But these claims are complex and challenging, and if you don’t have an experienced personal injury law firm behind you, things could go south. That’s why the team at Hilton & Somer, LLC is the firm you can trust to handle your wrongful death case. We have helped many families obtain justice and compensation as well as closure. Please call us today at 703-560-0700 to schedule a free consultation.