Wrongful Death Information Center
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Frequently Asked Questions about Wrongful Death
Q: What is the difference between a civil case and a criminal case against someone who caused a death?
A: A criminal case can only be brought by the government. The prosecutor makes a case against the person accused of a crime, seeking prison time or another punishment. The prosecutor must meet a higher standard of proof than in a civil case. A civil case can be filed by anyone whose private rights or civil rights have allegedly been violated by another party. When a private party files a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, the party is seeking monetary damages as compensation for the loss suffered. A civil trial for wrongful death, therefore, is very different from a criminal trial for murder or manslaughter.
Q: What if an unborn child dies?
A: In many states, the baby must be born alive for its death to be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit. This is not always the case, however. In some states, the fetus must have been viable (able to live outside the mother's womb) even though it was not born; in other states, viability is not an issue. Because the law varies so much from state to state, it is wise to consult a personal injury attorney who knows the laws in your area.
A "wrongful death" occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company or entity. If your spouse or family member has been killed under such circumstances, please contact us for an evaluation of your claim.
Houston, Texas, Wrongful Death Trial Lawyer
The law firm of Hartley Hampton, P.C., provides compassionate, responsive representation for spouses and immediate family members of people killed in fatal accidents caused by the negligence, misconduct, or violence of others, as well as those who have suffered catastrophic injuries. Attorney Hartley Hampton has nearly 30 years of experience representing injured people in wrongful death lawsuits.
If you have lost a loved one as a result of an accident or crime, contact our Houston law offices to schedule a no-cost consultation about your legal options, whether you choose an insurance claim, litigation, or another way to resolve your claim and move forward with your life.
Wrongful Death - An Overview
Losing a loved one is painful. Losing a loved one due to wrongful death can be even more difficult. If someone's wrongful actions caused injuries that resulted in your loved one's death, that is a wrongful death. In common law, there was no legal action that surviving family members could take. That changed, however, when governments began to make laws protecting survivors. Now, in every state in the U.S., the representative or heirs of a person lost to wrongful death may file a lawsuit for monetary damages. The laws, however, vary quite a bit from state to state, so consulting with an attorney is advisable.
The Physician-Patient Privilege in Wrongful Death Cases
The physician-patient privilege is designed to help each patient feel free to tell his or her doctor the whole truth about what he or she is experiencing; that way, the doctor will have the best information for diagnosing and treating the patient. This privilege can be very important for the relationship between the doctor and the patient. When a patient passes away, however, what happens to the privilege?
The Wrongful Death of a Child or an Elderly Person
No matter what the age of the loved one you have lost, the grief is powerful. The law, however, often takes age into account when it assesses your loss. Because your loved one cannot be replaced, the law is at a disadvantage to truly compensate you. Money is one measure that the legal system can objectively use to reflect what has been lost.
Statutes of Limitations and the Discovery Rule
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to wrongful death, the last thing you may want to think about is how your legal rights are affected. The law surrounding wrongful death, however, allows legal action to be taken only for a limited period of time. When this period has elapsed, you will no longer have the option of filing a lawsuit.
Monetary Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Legal actions for wrongful death can be very complex, especially when the harmful acts of several parties contributed to an individual's death. Some parties may settle the matter before the case goes to trial; others may see it all the way to a verdict. No matter who the defendant is, the amount and type of financial recovery the plaintiff can make depend on the law of the state in which the case takes place.
Wrongful Death Resource Links