The Elements Required in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In the weeks and months after a fatal accident, it’s absolutely essential that you take the time to grieve your loss. At some point, though, you’ll need to decide whether you want to take legal action to recover for your losses. No amount of money can undo what has happened, but you may experience the loss directly because of the lost support your loved one would have provided, or the loss of companionship or consortium that their absence brings. You have a right to pursue damages, but you’ll need to prove in court that the death was wrongful. To do so, you must show negligence.
The Requirements to Show Negligence in New Jersey
If you choose to take legal action after an accidental death, you will have the burden of proof—you must demonstrate to the court that the defendant was negligent. In civil actions in New Jersey, that means that you must show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant was negligent and that you sustained losses. In essence, it means that the full weight of the evidence supporting your claim of negligence must be more persuasive than any evidence the defendant produces.
To successfully prove negligence, you must show three things:
- That the at-fault party did not act reasonably, given the circumstances—This principle, developed over centuries, requires that all persons in society act prudently at all times. If a person’s behavior falls short of that standard, he or she may have potential liability.
- That the breach of the duty of care "caused" an accident—You must show that the accident would not have happened if the defendant had not acted unreasonably. You must also show that the accident and injuries were "reasonably foreseeable" as a result of the breach of duty.
- You suffered actual losses—If all your injuries were covered by insurance, or if you suffered property damage, but the property had no value, you would be able to recover any compensation.
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