A death of a loved one is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, and when it involves a wrongful death case, it becomes only worse as a result. Not only is there the issue of the emotions that arise from someone having taken the life of a person you care about, but also the fact that you are likely going to be involved in a stressful dispute, should you decide to pursue a wrongful death case. But how does an attorney prove the wrongful death of a loved one, anyway?
Steps an attorney takes to prove a wrongful death
Proving wrongful death can be more or less complicated, depending on the circumstances of the death. The first step to understanding whether someone is responsible for the death of a loved one is to understand the term ‘duty of care’. This term refers to a varying level of responsibility that people in general have to act, depending on the circumstances of these situations. This duty of care refers to the responsibility a person has to behave in both a reasonable and responsible manner. A common example of the duty of care people have is when the person is behind the wheel of their vehicle. Motorists have an expectation to obey the traffic laws, as well as to be conscious of those around them (including drivers and pedestrians alike). The attorney’s job is to show whether that duty of care existed for this person.
The next step for the attorney is to show that this person, who had that duty of care, violated said duty of care. This is going to be a more complicated process than simply showing that the person had a duty of care. For example, obviously, anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle has an automatic duty of care but showing that they violated that duty is an entirely different matter. Basically, the attorney has to show that the person accused acted in a negligent, or even malicious, manner. Using the driving example, if a driver was driving recklessly, ignoring traffic laws, and/or was driving under the influence, this would constitute a violation of their duty of care for others, even if no one was ultimately harmed by their negligent actions. Essentially, their behavior has to be well below the standard that a person would normally operate at in the same circumstances.
Negligence is somewhat difficult to prove, but the next step is the biggest hurdle that an attorney has to cross proving that the person’s negligent actions are what caused your loved one to die. The attorney will need to gather a lot of evidence to show that the duty of care they held was violated, and that this led to someone’s death. For instance, if the person crashed into the victim’s vehicle while they were driving under the influence, and the crash was shown to be caused by their failure to control the vehicle, this would be a significant aspect that contributes to filing a lawsuit. However, there is still one more thing that the attorney needs to establish: damages that the wrongful death caused you in particular.
Who you are in relation to the loved one matters to an extent, but proving damages is key. If you show that you suffered economic damages as a result of the death, that could be adequate to file suit against someone whose fatal negligence has been demonstrated. For instance, if you were responsible for paying funeral expenses, this is something you can pursue as part of a lawsuit. You may also pursue recovery for medical costs incurred as a result of the victim’s damages. A person, such as a child or a spouse, who relied on the victim financially may be able to pursue financial compensation to help you deal with the new financial issues. Not all damages to you manifesting from the wrongful death are going to be tangible, however. For instance, it is not at all unusual that a person may experience emotional harm from no longer having their loved one in their life. There is no proper compensation for the loss of companionship, of affection, of emotional support, that was taken away from your loved one’s death, but some form of compensation is understandable and important.
In the end, it is of the utmost importance that you pick the right attorney to collect the evidence and ultimately bring the case forward once the evidence is gathered. To do this, make sure that you hire an attorney with years of experience with wrongful death lawsuits. Don’t take the risk of working with an attorney who has neither the experience nor the credentials to do the job the right way, right away.
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