Bringing a wrongful death suit is a heavy burden. The process can be lengthy, frustrating, and painful. It’s something no one ever wants to go through. Still, filing a suit when your family member or loved one was killed by the wrongful actions of another party is an important right that should be exercised. It is our tool for holding people accountable for being dangerously reckless or careless, and it provides a way for you to receive damages for the impact those reckless actions have had on you and your family.
The Hayden Law Firm is experienced in wrongful death cases. We will stand by your side in your wrongful death case. You can call us at (314) 480-3100 any time to discuss your case and ask us questions, free of charge. We never charge for our services until we get you the settlement that is fair.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
For our courts to consider an event a wrongful death, certain facts must apply. You must prove that negligence and a breach of duty occured and that they caused the death and led to damages.
- Negligence: The family member who is bringing the wrongful death case must be able to show that it was the negligence of the defendant-or the party they are bringing the case against-that caused the victim’s death. Negligence could mean several things, such as recklessness, carelessness, irresponsibility, or inattentiveness. These negligent actions could have been the direct, sole cause of death or a contributing factor, or partial cause
- Breach of Duty: Breach of duty involves two parts in proving your wrongful death claim. First, you must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. Medical professionals have a duty to treat their patients to the best of their ability. That is obvious. However, individuals and organizations owe a duty of care to other people in many other situations. For example, when driving, a motorist has the duty to keep all other drivers, passengers, roadworkers, pedestrians, and anyone else using the roadway safe by driving responsibly and following all traffic laws. Secondly, to support your wrongful death claim, you must prove that the defending party not only owed a duty of care, but also that they breached this duty through their actions.
- Causation: After negligence, duty of care, and breach of duty have been proven, the person filing the wrongful death suit has to prove that it was the defendant’s negligence that caused the death of the victim. In other words, it is not enough to prove that a driver ran a stop sign. You have to be able to demonstrate how the action of running a stop sign is what ended your loved one’s life.
- Damages: Finally, you need to prove to the court that these negligent actions that caused the death of your loved one resulted in damages. This is where you, as the surviving family member or court-approved representative, show how you were affected by the defendant’s actions. Wrongful death damages can include expenses like funeral and end-of-life costs and medical bills, loss of income like the decedent’s future wages and benefits, and nonmonetary damages like loss of companionship and pain and suffering.
The Burden of Proof
A wrongful death suit is a civil case, rather than a criminal case (although in some cases there will be a criminal case against the defendant as well). Missouri has its own rules on evidence and proof, as does every state. For any case in the United States court system, either civil or criminal, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is guilty. They are innocent until proven guilty.
However, in a civil case such as a wrongful death case, the burden of proof is lower than it is in a criminal case. To prove a defendant guilty in criminal court, the plaintiff has to prove that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil court, you need only establish a “preponderance of the evidence.” This means that, as the plaintiff, you need to supply enough evidence to demonstrate that the defendant more likely than not caused the wrongful death of your loved one.
In evaluating just what is considered “enough” evidence, quality is more important than quantity. That is to say, it is not about how much or how many individual pieces of evidence you present, but how well the evidence you do present demonstrates your claim that the defendant’s actions are responsible for the victim’s death.
Evidence can take many different forms. In some cases, you and your lawyer may need to think creatively to produce strong evidence that proves your case. Some common sources of evidence are:
- Medical bills, records, and documents
- Police reports
- Written or recorded communication between insurance companies and investigating parties
- Insurance Explanation of Benefits forms
- Photographs and video of vehicle or other property damage
- Photographs of injuries and medical treatments and devices
- Text messages
- Phone records and cell phone bills
- Social media posts and messages
Not all wrongful death cases go to trial. If the defendant acts in good faith and agrees to a fair and complete settlement for the damages you and your family have sustained, the case will not go to trial. In communications and negotiations, your lawyer will show the defense team the strength of your case. This may be enough to get them to agree to a reasonable settlement. However, if they do not cooperate, the case may have to go to trial and be heard in front of a judge and jury. The trial phase is where you will have to present your evidence and meet the burden of proof.
Wrongful Death Lawyer
When facing the loss of a loved one, collecting evidence and proving your case is the last thing on your mind. It’s important to have a lawyer who is skilled and experienced, as well as compassionate and understanding. You need someone you can trust and count on working on your case. Lawyer Amanda Hayden understands your unique needs as a family grieving a loved one as well as the technical needs of your case. The Hayden Law Firm is equipped to stand by your side throughout the entire wrongful death suit process until we get you a settlement you are comfortable with. You can speak to us about your case today at (314) 480-3100 or by sending us a message. Hayden Law is here for you.