The accidental death of a loved one is a worst case scenario. No one expects to receive the phone call advising them of a tragedy or that alarming knock on the door from law enforcement. Most people experience profound shock and denial in the wake of a fatal crash.
It is a very hard thing to accept when you lose a loved one unexpectedly in a motor vehicle collision. The sense of tragedy and loss is often compounded by the fact that someone else's bad decisions utterly changed the course of your life. The impact of the crash can be both emotional and financial, and it can persist for many years after your loss.
Thankfully, Louisiana law does allow for surviving family members to bring a wrongful death action against anyone who causes a fatal crash. Understanding those rights can help you make the best possible decision while coping with an unexpected tragedy.
Wrongful death cases are possible even without criminal convictions
One of the most persistent myths about wrongful death actions is the idea that they require some kind of criminal conviction to be successful in court. The truth is that civil courts have a much lower standard for evidence than criminal courts do.
In order to secure a conviction, a criminal prosecutor has to demonstrate to the judge or jury evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual accused with a crime actually committed it. That is a very high standard for evidence.
In civil cases, while evidence is still necessary, the standard for a successful claim is much lower. Evidence that may not be sufficient to secure criminal conviction can be enough to help your family successfully bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver responsible for your loss.
What compensation can you seek in a wrongful death claim?
Under Louisiana state law, the surviving dependents or close family members of someone killed in a fatal car crash can see various kinds of compensation. The most obvious and easy to prove are claims related to direct financial losses. These can include medical bills, funeral costs, property damage and lost wages.
However, in certain situations, your family can seek more compensation. In cases that involved intoxicated drivers, for example, it is also possible to seek exemplary damages. Exemplary damages are a form of punishment for the driver who violated the law. They do not relate specifically to a financial loss by your family, but are intended instead to penalize the act of breaking the law when it results in death to another person.
If your family is struggling in the wake of a fatal motor vehicle crash, it may be time to explore whether you have the right to seek wrongful death compensation in your case.