Calabasas Wrongful Death Lawyer
Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed to death in 1994 just 20 miles southeast of Calabasas. The prime suspect was Simpson’s estranged husband and former football star, O.J. Simpson. The jury acquitted him at his highly publicized and controversial criminal trial but he was found liable of wrongful death in the civil trial that occurred afterward. How could there have been two different outcomes for the same set of facts? And, backing up, what exactly is wrongful death?
While homicide (murder, manslaughter, etc.) are crimes against the public and prosecuted by the state, wrongful death is a civil claim brought by the survivors of someone who died as a result of another party’s negligence or intentional act. Most cases aren’t nearly as dramatic as the Simpson case, but it’s important to understand the law and the role of a Calabasas wrongful death lawyer in the event of such a tragedy. If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one and wondering if you have case, get in touch with us now.Wrongful Death and How it Differs From Homicide
As mentioned above, wrongful death is a civil claim filed by the survivor(s) of the deceased alleging that one or more parties were to blame for the individual’s death. Civil law allows for monetary awards, as opposed to prison or other such punishments, so the plaintiff(s) would argue that their loved one’s death left them without financial support or caused pain and suffering, to name a couple of common damages. It’s common for the civil trial to follow the criminal trial, even if the criminal defendant is ultimately acquitted of the crime. And many wrongful death cases have no criminal trial at all.
Since the standard of evidence for a criminal trial is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” there is a very high bar the prosecution much reach in order to get a conviction. Civil claims, however, are subject to the much-lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard. In the case of O.J. Simpson, the jury determined that there were still some unanswered questions in his criminal trial and therefore decided to acquit. But to find him liable in civil court, the plaintiffs only needed to show that, on balance, the evidence pointed more heavily to his hand in the two deaths.What it Takes to Prove Liability in a California Wrongful Death Claim
There is a two-year time limit from the date of the incident (the “statute of limitations”) for filing a wrongful death claim in California. As with any claim, the plaintiff must prove the existence of certain “elements” to win the case. These include:
- A human died;
- This death was caused either by another's negligence or intent to cause harm (not necessarily death);
- Surviving family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death; and
- A personal representative for the decedent's estate has been appointed.
For example, your husband was riding his bike along the Mulholland Scenic Corridor when a driver struck him, sending him careening over a cliff, and ultimately killing him. The driver, who had a high blood-alcohol concentration, was arrested for impaired driving and involuntary manslaughter. Since he was the family’s sole bread-winner, his wife sued him for wrongful death, claiming damages for the cost of funeral services and burial, loss of financial support, loss of household support, and loss of consortium (love, affection, companionship, etc.). Your Calabasas wrongful death lawyer at Walch Law can help you calculate the financial burden of their death and these cases can be worth millions of dollars.
If there’s a greater than 50 percent chance the facts presented in the civil trial are true, then the plaintiff has met the “preponderance of the evidence” standard required to establish the defendant’s liability. It may not even be necessary for the defendant to have been convicted in this example, since the motorist has a duty to yield to bicyclists and the fact that he hit the biker is not in dispute.Common Wrongful Death Claims
The O.J. Simpson case is by no means the norm but it does illustrate the difference between criminal homicide cases and civil wrongful death claims. More common are cases involving negligence that leads to an individual’s death, such as:
- Medical malpractice;
- Automobile accidents;
- Commercial truck (big rig) accidents;
- Defective products; and
- Workplace accidents.
There’s more than one defendant in most cases, such as when a truck driver, their employer, and a third-party owner of the truck are held liable for someone’s accidental death due to code violations or other negligent acts.Let a Top Calabasas Wrongful Death Lawyer Represent You
There’s no amount of money that can replace a loved one lost to the negligence or intentional act of another. While reliving their death in the courtroom is never pleasant (you likely won’t have to do thar anyways), seeking monetary compensation from the responsible party (or parties) can go a long way toward covering the expenses that come with a loved one’s death. For such an important claim, you want to work with the top firm in Calabasas. Call the Law Offices of Gary K. Walch, A Law Corporation today and get the compensation you deserve.