Defending against wrongful death litigation is often complicated by the emotional ramifications of an unexpected and potentially unnecessary death. That emotional response may make family members reluctant to settle a case or create unrealistic expectations. Similarly, juror sympathies may affect their decisions, particularly when it comes to awarding damages. An experienced wrongful death defense attorney knows how to keep the case on track, requiring the plaintiff to meet the appropriate burden of proof regarding both liability and damages.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Immediately
In many cases, organizations wait until a lawsuit has been filed, or at least until they have received a demand letter, before seeking legal advice. That can be a serious mistake. When you become aware that a person or group of people has been killed on your commercial property, at an event you hosted, through the use of your products, or in any other way that could potentially be attributed to your company, you should begin preparing to defend against a wrongful death claim.
Often, months pass–sometimes a year or more–before you receive any actual notice of a claim. By that time, your ability to thoroughly investigate and assemble evidence may be significantly compromised. For example, repairs or other modifications to physical space may occur without appropriate evidence having been preserved, or employees whose witness statements are critical to your case may have moved on and may be difficult to locate or reluctant to cooperate. Even those who remain a part of your organization will not have the same level of recall months after the incident that they would if they were interviewed promptly.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can work with you from the beginning to build your defense, so that you are prepared for whatever allegations arise.
Liability in Wrongful Death Cases
With a few exceptions, strict liability arenas, such as many product liability claims, require that the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit prove that the the defendant negligently caused the death. However, the analysis is more complex than it may initially appear. Often, two, or more actions or oversights combine to cause one or more deaths. The parties may also disagree as to which of two or more events actually caused the accident. When that is the case, a careful investigation and expert witnesses are generally required to construct a successful argument regarding causation.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
Different states treat negligence on the part of the deceased differently, but the issue bears investigation regardless of the statutory model the state in question follows. In a best-case scenario, sufficient negligence on the part of the person killed will result in no liability for the defendant. In other situations, liability may be limited to a percentage of total damages which corresponds with the percentage of fault assigned to the defendant. It is important to work with an attorney who has a thorough understanding of how the negligence of the deceased and/or third parties impacts your potential liability in a wrongful death suit.
Damages in Wrongful Death Litigation Cases
Although the value of human life cannot truly be summed up with a number, the plaintiff or plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit will have to prove monetary damages, such as economic losses to the family. This typically involves expert witnesses making clinical assessments of the likely earning capacity that the deceased would have had if he or she not been killed. These experts will also projecting lost support for the family and increased expenses as well.
The more complicated aspect of the argument regarding damages relates to non-economic damages and punitive damages. It is in these areas where the calculations are less clearly defined and a jury may be influenced by emotion, whether in the form of sympathy for the plaintiff or anger at the defendant. Thus, the presentation of the case and the impression of the defendant company established during the trial is nearly as important as the technical preparation of the case.
The Experienced Wrongful Death Attorneys at KPPB Can Help
When it comes to protecting yourself from a wrongful death claim, experience counts. Our attorneys have the experience necessary to manage every aspect of the case, from the initial investigation through settlement negotiations, preparation of the case, and, if necessary, trial before a jury. The sooner you start building your defense, the more opportunity your attorneys will have to uncover important evidence and plan the most effective defense for your specific circumstances. Contact KPPB LAW for more information.