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What Is Wrongful Death?

One of the most traumatic things that can happen to any family is the death of a family member in an accident. There is only one thing that is worse than a loss of this magnitude, and that is the realization that this death was senseless, pointless and easily preventable if someone else had been doing what they were supposed to.

In a typical court case where accidents are involved, the people involved in the case will be suing for a charge called “negligence,” with the consequences of that charge being personal injury. In the worst case scenario, however, the consequences of negligence go far beyond injury, or even crippling, lifelong injury, and lead to someone’s death.

What happens if this occurs? Clearly, the person responsible for it must still answer for what’s been done in a court of law, but now the stakes are raised considerably. Now we’re looking at a wrongful death lawsuit.

Still Civil

One of the important distinctions we need to make about a wrongful death case that is pursued in court is that this is tried as a civil case. That means that the only damages and compensation that can be awarded are typical civil trial repatriation, and that means only money is involved. In a civil suit, the loser pays only money, and that is it.

This is not to say that all wrongful death lawsuits are ONLY civil. Depending on the circumstances, a wrongful death lawsuit can also be part of a larger court case in which criminal charges may be involved. But that is an entirely different legal case with its own rules, expectations and punishments, including imprisonment.

Family Matters

In the event of a wrongful death, there are two key points to keep in mind. The first is that the wrongful death must be provable in court if the case is to succeed. A good trial attorney will use all the tools and evidence available to show that the death was something that could have been prevented had the other party been upholding their legal responsibilities, whether that was driving a car sober, or ensuring that a gun with ammunition was not left sitting where any child could pick it up and play with it.

The other point to keep in mind is that a wrongful death case is only relevant to the immediate family. Close friends cannot sue for wrongful death. Only the spouse, children, and other relevant blood relatives or adopted children are eligible for compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

It’s also important to remember that there is a statute of limitations on how long a wrongful death suit is valid. A wrongful death lawsuit is only considered viable within four years of the death. Anything beyond that and you can’t go to court to seek compensation.

When it comes to the loss of a family member, if you know someone else is actually responsible for an easily preventable tragedy, do the right thing. Get an experienced trial attorney and ask about getting the justice your family deserves.

Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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