News watchers will likely have seen the term wrongful death crop up time and time again. Usually linked to cases of death by a police officer, as one VOA News review highlighted in the case of Breonna Taylor, or from cases involving medical issues like negligence, wrongful death is interesting in that it’s a highly legalized term that you may think would better be covered elsewhere in the law. The truth is that wrongful death plays an important role in the US legal system, and could soon become even more notable by its presence.
With more cases than ever being settled in favor of plaintiffs, the system is one to watch. This can applied on any type of death, even cremation keepsakes
Defining the term
In basic terms, wrongful death is fairly simple. As Cornell Law School outlines, anyone can raise a wrongful death civil lawsuit against anyone who they believe has caused the death of someone. The distinction is in the fact it is a civil, not criminal, case, and as a result, the consequences are likely to be monetary. Any money gained from a successful wrongful death lawsuit is subject to wrongful death settlement distribution, which considers factors such as the plaintiff’s age, debts owed to hospitals and other creditors, and other family members with a claim.
Understanding its usage
Wrongful death is deliberately a broadly defined civil suit. It means that anyone can apply in any situation they see fit. Of course, if there’s absolutely no merit in a claim it can be thrown out by the court; however, the opportunity is still there. As a result, what constitutes a wrongful death is something seeing expansion across the USA.
There have been several high-profile wrongful death suits of late. NPR reported on the case of Harry Dunn, where the wife of a US diplomat wrongfully killed a British citizen while in that country. George Floyd was another case where both criminal and civil cases were undertaken, with the latter awarding damages. This shows a departure from cases of the past, where state and federal bodies have typically sought to protect their own. This shows a liberalization of the wrongful death law – something which may provide hope for people feeling they haven’t been given justice.
The wrongful death law helps to provide an extra layer of protection where the very high level required by criminal law cannot be met. This means that families can achieve justice and some sense of peace even when the odds are against them. With more cases than ever being settled in favor of plaintiffs, the system is one to watch.