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Pursuing a Wrongful Death Case in a Catastrophic or Accidental Death

Sometimes, accidents can be so severe that they result in death. Heirs of the deceased may be able to pursue financial damages against the person or entity responsible for the death. This is what is known as a wrongful death case.

This type of personal injury case falls under the category of tort law. There are two very important differences between a civil case, including tort cases, and a criminal case. The first difference concerns the burden of proof, with civil cases requiring a lower standard of proof than criminal cases. Second, the punishment handed out in a civil case involves financial penalties only, where a criminal case results in jail time and/or fines.

One does not have to choose to file a civil or a criminal case in the event of wrongful death. The victim’s heirs may file a wrongful death case at the same time, before, or after the state has filed criminal charges. Heirs may file a claim even if there is no criminal case. The verdict in either case will not be used to influence the verdict in the other case, so even if the state was unable to convict on a criminal charge, the heirs may still be successful in civil court.


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Normally, only the injured party can file a lawsuit. Since the injured party in a wrongful death claim is deceased, however, the person’s heirs may file a claim on their behalf. Each state has its own definition of “heir.” In Utah, the immediate family is considered heirs. The surviving adopted or biological parents and children are heirs, as is the victim’s spouse.


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In Utah, only one wrongful death case can be filed for a specific deceased person. This means that all surviving heirs are treated as one group when dealing with a lawsuit like this. If there is an award for the plaintiff, that person is responsible for splitting the money between the surviving heirs. This also means that other heirs may not also file a claim for the same incident, even if they are legally heirs and have standing. For this reason, it is important that all of the surviving heirs work together on the case to avoid confusion and ill will.

Wrongful death claims are subject to a statute of limitations. The heirs of a deceased person will only have this long to file a claim. In Utah, you have two years in which to file a claim. That means that if you wait longer than this, you cannot file a claim, regardless of the circumstances.

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January 23, 2013 This post was written by Categories: AccidentsAttorneysLaw Tagged with: AccidentsAttorneysLawyers
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