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Wrongful Death Perpetrators May Claim Immunity

In the event that a loved one dies, especially when that loved one dies as a result of the irresponsibility, negligence or incompetence of someone else, it can be one of the most devastating experiences a person can have. Not only has an important member of someone’s life died, that person was taken away directly as the result of someone’s else’s actions.

The natural impulse in a situation like this is to make whoever is responsible pay for what they’ve done. In legal terms, this is called a wrongful death suit, and there is no lawyer in the world that will not take up this cause if they feel a wrongful death has legitimately taken place, and someone responsible is trying to get away with shirking that responsibility.

But even in a situation where the responsible parties are known, sometimes other circumstances may intervene that make it possible for the parties to claim immunity. What this means is that they may try to persuade the court that regardless of whether they were responsible or not, the law does not apply to them in this case, and no suit can be filed. But how does this happen?

Claiming Immunity

In the past, the law actually declared that family members could NOT sue each other for wrongful death. It was believed at the time that this would encourage harmony in the family and prevent ugly rifts or financial opportunities from being exploited, since no one wanted to see remaining children of parents suing each other. In the modern day, this practice has been revoked, so if siblings—or even spouses—now believe that another family member is responsible for a wrongful death, they actually can carry out a suit against that immediate family member.

While families may enact suits at each other, there are still a few groups today that the law can sometimes recognize as simply not being subject to wrongful death. Of course, that ruling can be challenged, but there is still a precedent for it occurring.

The most common group that immunity applies to in a wrongful death suit is the American government itself. This is referred to as sovereign immunity, and means that you cannot sue the government, government departments, or agents without the government first granting permission. However, even in cases where state or local government does give the go ahead to pursue such a case, because these are government related groups, claims against them top out at $200,000 per claimant, and $300,000 per occurrence. Some associated groups may also attempt to “hide” under sovereign immunity in order to avoid suits, or their magnitude. This happened with the University of Central Florida when a death during football practice resulted in a $10 million suit. The university successfully managed to get the protection of sovereign immunity and so, even though the suit went through, the damages were capped at $200,000 even though the case was successful.

Employers may also sometimes fall back on immunity measures by hiding behind state workers compensation statutes. In such cases, it’s similar to the “no fault” legal situation of car accidents where a set, certain amount is automatically deferred to victims, with no need to go to court for higher amounts. In such cases, survivors or victims may have to go so far as to prove that the harm or death that occurred as deliberate if they want to circumvent the worker compensation amounts and seek higher damages.

This may strike people as unfair, but that is why, when such a tragic incident occurs, your first and foremost action should be to seek the advice of a professional lawyer. By moving on this as quickly as possible, an experienced lawyer can help you quickly seek the resolution and justice you deserve, and help to fight the efforts of the responsible parties from manipulating the system.

During his time as a public attorney for the State of Florida, Bernard Walsh developed a passion for defending the legal rights of Florida's citizens. Having seen many people being taken advantage of after being injured and the financial harm that can cause for families he committed himself fully to helping injured clients get justice, by fighting to make greedy insurance companies pay what they owe.

Wrongful Death Perpetrators May Claim Immunity

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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