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Can a wrongful death claim punish the guilty party?

On Behalf of | Feb 18, 2021 | Wrongful Death

Wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases. Within the legal system, civil cases do not involve sentences. Instead, civil cases result in rewards.

You may wonder then if you can use a wrongful death lawsuit to punish the person responsible for your loved one’s death. Perhaps you feel he or she requires more than paying the typical damages for medical care, emotional pain and other financial losses you incurred as a result of the death. There may be a chance for you to seek punishment in the civil case.

Punitive damages

FindLaw explains punitive damages are those the court awards only for the purpose of punishment. This is the only way the civil court has to punish someone, and the court will use this type of damages as a deterrent. The hope is through punishment, the person or entity will not commit further actions that could cause death. However, civil court is not really about punishment, so courts are very hesitant to impose punitive damages.

Proving damages

You will have an uphill battle proving to the court that it should award punitive damages. The general default position is that it will not impose them. You must change the court’s mind, which involves showing the other party deserves or must have some type of punishment for his or her actions.

It can be a difficult thing to show the court. In many cases, it is better to leave punishment to the criminal court. Many wrongful death cases will also have a criminal element, which the prosecutor may use to file criminal charges. In criminal court, punishment of actions is routine.