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Understanding wrongful death suits

Under any circumstances, the death of a loved one is a devastating tragedy. But when that death was the result of murder or criminal neglect, the law has the power to seek punishment for those responsible. Even if an if an individual is found guilty of criminal charges, they may also be held liable in civil court.

In addition to seeking justice through the criminal court system, many times the loved ones of the victim choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This course of action can be pursued regardless of whether or not the defendant is convicted of a crime related to the victim's death. This is because the standard of proof is lower in civil court, and juries are instructed accordingly.

One of the most widely known wrongful death lawsuits was filed by the family of Nicole Brown Simpson. Although the jury famously found OJ Simpson not guilty at his criminal trial, he did not fare as well in civil court. He was found liable for the wrongful death of both Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The plaintiffs were able to persuade a jury that there was a preponderance of evidence that suggested he was responsible for the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend.

There is little doubt that the Goldman and Brown families felt a tremendous amount of vindication, after being disappointed so terribly by the outcome of the criminal trial. But it is important to remember that victims' families can also can file a wrongful death suit even in circumstances where no criminal charges are filed. Medical malpractice, unsafe workplaces and plane crashes are just a few other circumstances that could warrant a wrongful death suit. If you believe your situation may involve a wrongful death suit, an experienced lawyer can help you explore your options while protecting your rights.

Source: Randolph & Associates, "Wrongful Death," accessed Sep. 15, 2016

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