Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 29, 2012 – In instances where the plaintiff’s case is strong and the defendant knows it, often a settlement is reached before going to court.
“This case involved the sudden death of a 19-year-old college student. In the wee hours of the morning, the man was riding on an all-terrain vehicle with another student when it flipped over. The young man was fatally injured, and the driver was charged with driving under the influence and involuntary manslaughter,” outlined Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.
This case did make it to a criminal court the first time, and the jury acquitted the ATV driver. The deceased’s dad launched a civil federal lawsuit, a wrongful death suit, indicating the driver was drunk and speeding recklessly, causing the death of his son. Further details provided in the federal statement of claim intimated the ATV driver’s family had served both young men alcohol continuously over a period of several hours prior to the fatal wreck. “In fact, the ATV driver admitted to police at the scene that he had been drinking,” Schuelke pointed out.
The reason for the criminal trial acquitting the defendant involved the man invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test. These two factors would not hamper a wrongful death lawsuit as the case would be heard in a civil court.
“As it turned out, the case did not go to court. It was settled before that for $2.7 million most likely because the details in the statement of claim and the admission of the ATV driver to police that he had been drinking continuously were strong indicators that a jury would find for the plaintiff,” remarked Schuelke.
Wrongful death lawsuits are those pursued in civil court, and they have a different standard of proof than required for a criminal case. In other words, the standard of proof for a wrongful death case is on a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.
“These types of lawsuits address the concept that in addition to harming the person who died, those who depended on the deceased for support, emotionally or financially, are injured as well. This is the reason for plaintiffs asking for compensation for the death of their loved one. They have sustained a grievous harm, and have not only lost their family member, but have lost their financial support, which are two devastating blows in one. Someone needs to be responsible for that loss,” Schuelke said.
A wrongful act may be a careless or negligent action such as driving while under the influence, a reckless act or an intentional act, like murder. Virtually every state has a wrongful death statute that allows the family of a victim to bring a lawsuit seeking compensation for the death of a loved one.
Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP
1717 W. 6th Street, Suite 375
Austin, Texas 78703-4868
Call (512) 476-4944