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What must you prove in a wrongful death case?

You likely know that if one of your family members dies in New Jersey because of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing, you can sue the person responsible for your loved one’s death. What you may not realize, however, is that if the death resulted from someone’s wrongful acts, that person need not be convicted of a crime in order for you to prevail in your wrongful death action. Yours is a civil suit, not a criminal prosecution, and the only thing you can recover is money damages.

FindLaw explains that you have standing to sue for wrongful death if you are the spouse, child, parent or other close relative of the deceased person.

What you must prove

When you become the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit, you must prove the following four things in order to win your suit:

  1. That the person you are suing owed a duty of care to your deceased loved one
  2. That (s)he breached this duty by doing or failing to do something
  3. That this breach of duty caused your loved one’s death
  4. That you suffered economic damages as a result of your loved one’s death

Bear in mind that since this is a civil lawsuit, your burden of proof is less than that of a prosecutor in a criminal prosecution. Whereas prosecutors must prove the defendant guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, you must only prove him or her guilty of negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, you must prove that there is at least a 51 percent likelihood that (s)he negligently caused your loved one’s death.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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