Did someone related or on whom you depend, die in circumstances and you suspect that someone was at fault in their death? And did the death of this person cause you pain, emotional suffering or loss of support? If these are the circumstances around the death of someone close to you, you may have a case for wrongful death. Although we will go over the elements of wrongful death here if you have read these first few lines and suspect that you may have a wrongful death case, the best course of action is to discuss the circumstances with legal experts like Tennessee based Bill Easterly and Associates, who specialize in wrongful death cases.

Where are wrongful death claims filed?

All wrongful death claims are filed in civil court meaning that the defendant is not facing jail time only the prospect of owing financial compensation to those affected by the wrongful death. The plaintiff claims that the defendant’s behavior resulted in the wrongful death and it has left behind surviving family members and dependents who will suffer financially, emotionally and in other definable ways, due to the victim’s absence. So the focus in a wrongful death suit is on the survivors not the deceased person.

The laws in filing and the guidelines for wrongful death cases vary from state to state and each state defines who may sue for wrongful death. Some states also cap damages for wrongful death and place a time limit for filing a case. Wrongful death cases will often go to a jury because they are perceived as subjective and attorneys for both sides feel they can convince a jury of the merits of their position.

What is the burden of proof for wrongful death?

It is very important to note that a wrongful death case can be brought even if the defendant has not been convicted in a criminal case around the same circumstances. Perhaps the most famous recent case of this type involved OJ Simpson here he was acquitted of charges in the criminal case against him, but lost the civil wrongful death case and was told to pay the Goldman family millions in compensation. This case contrasted the differences between a criminal and civil case where the burdens of proof differ drastically. In a criminal case the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, while in a civil case the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not that it was wrongful death. This provides for victims of wrongful death much better odds at winning their case.

Who can file?

Who can file for wrongful death varies and is determined by the state. In most cases a surviving spouse next of kin, or children are legally able to file a wrongful death claim. In the case where a family member wishes to sue another family member for wrongful death, typically there is immunity, or restrictions.

With time restrictions and a complicated set of criteria to work through, if you suspect you have a wrongful death case, you should approach a wrongful death attorney sooner rather than later.