Explaining the wrongful death definition can be complicated, but it helps in gaining some basic understanding. Knowing if there is a legitimate reason to contact an attorney is not always easy to recognize, but if there is a question as to the legitimacy of a potential action, a qualified attorney can help clarify the matter. In areas such as Houston, Texas, narrowing down a qualified lawyer can be tough. After all, there seems to be a lot of attorneys with the right qualifications, and trying to find the best one out of the choices can add additional anxiety to an already stressful situation.
In cases of wrongful death the definition itself is clear. If one person or company is found at fault for causing the untimely demise of another person, the heirs have a right to collect monetary compensation for the damages. It is a civil action practiced in common law jurisdictions where one person has suffered some form of loss due to the actions or negligence of another. The liability of the defendant is decided by the tort law of each state individually.
The criminal prosecution process is different than a common law procedure. A person may be found criminally liable by a jury of causing the demise of another person either voluntarily or involuntarily, depending on the jurisdiction. A person found not guilty in a criminal court may be found liable under the wrongful death definition. The criminal proceedings rely on a verdict that is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and the other takes only a “preponderance of the evidence”.
One of the most highly publicized cases in recent history that shows a good example of the two is the 1994 O.J. Simpson case. The former actor and American football hero went on trial facing ten counts including murder. The trial lasted almost nine months, whereas Simpson was acquitted of all the charges. In 1997, however, the families of the victims won a civil trial where the jury decided unanimously the preponderance of the evidence showed Simpson was liable for their untimely demise. A court renewed the civil judgment in 2008.
In 2009, Harris County police were found liable for the death of a 52-year old paranoid schizophrenic man that died. The police were called to assist with transporting the man that was off of his medication to a treatment center. At no time did the man act aggressively, yet the police brutally threw him to the ground, shoved a knee in his back, and hogtied him. They then used a stun gun on him almost 20 times. He quit breathing, and remained hogtied in an unresponsive state until paramedics arrived.
The wrongful death definition was met in the case, and the mother (whom watched helplessly from the porch), was awarded damages of $3 million. The police had used excessive deadly force, and the judgment was upheld in the appellate court. The jury found the police 97% responsible for his death, yet the grand jury declined to indict.
If a loved one has been killed due to the inaction, negligence, or action of another person or company, it is a good idea to know the wrongful death definition. Remember that criminal and civil liability have different definitions, and one does not depend on the either. A reputable personal injury attorney can help determine whether or not there is just cause for this type of case.