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Death by wrongful acts

Billera LAW > Practice Areas > Death by wrongful acts

Death may be inevitable, but it shouldn’t be premature. When someone’s death is caused by the wrongful act of another, the law provides that the offender is liable for material damage in a civil court.


In each state, the legislature has enacted legislation providing for this remedy, determining not only what relatives can sue as party plaintiffs, but also the amount of damage that can be awarded. There is no federal law on wrongful death.


Each state’s wrongful death statutes are unique, and loved ones reasonably seek advice from an experienced legal counsel in determining their claim as well as other possible causes of wrongful death.


For example, a wrongful death claim may involve medical negligence or a claim for damages based on product liability.


In many states, claims can also be made at the same time as victims’ funds that have been established to assist loved ones who have lost a relative. Incorrect death claims may also accompany civil claims based on intentional conduct that is simultaneously prosecuted by criminal authorities:


Ron Goldman’s family successfully filed a wrongful death suit against O.J. Simpson and was awarded $38 million, although Simpson was acquitted of Goldman’s murder in criminal proceedings;


and the family of Bonnie Lee Blakely was awarded $ 30 million in an illegal death suit against the actor Robert Blake, although he was also found innocent in the murder of his wife.


Lawyers on traumas file lawsuits for families on the basis of illegal statements about death. They seek various damages, such as: lost income; loss of care, protection and communication; intentional infliction of emotional stress; pain and suffering; lost pension, health insurance and other benefits; and sometimes punitive damages. Each state has its own statute of limitations applicable to wrongful death law, which requires that claims be filed within a certain period of time, or they will be prohibited. Some of these deadlines are short.


Most states allow for penalties as part of the wrongful death requirement. Penalty damages are “punitive” damages, not to compensate for the actual losses of the victim, but instead to send a message to both the defendant and others that the conduct in question is unacceptable in our society. Punitive damages have led to safer working conditions and set standards of care in various areas, as well as helping to define product safety standards.