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Proving a construction injury led to a wrongful death

Ideally New Yorkers wake up, go to work and then come home safely. But not everyone is so fortunate. Sometimes accidents happen. Sometimes construction workers do not come home. When a construction accident leads to death, the loved ones of the deceased may be able to pursue a wrongful death suit.

Doing so can be essential step towards moving forward. A wrongful death suit can hold those responsible for the accident accountable. It can also yield compensation to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and many other forms of damage.

But before that compensation can be received, New Yorkers need to prove their case. Typically, this means they will need to show that the defendant had a duty to act carefully but failed to do so and thereby caused the death.

The next question is how strong must the proof be. The evidence must demonstrate each of the questions above by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, a plaintiff must show that it was more likely than not that the defendant had a duty, failed to satisfy that duty and that failure led to the death.

This standard is much less than a criminal trial, which requires the government to prove that a defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet the lower standard for a personal injury case, New Yorkers need only to provide evidence that shows the defendant was more likely than not responsible.

The differing standards of proof for criminal and civil trials can be significant. Why? Because often a wrongful death leads to two cases: one criminal, the other civil. The criminal case usually goes first. If it leads to a guilty verdict, the civil case’s chance for success is high. But even if the criminal case does not result in a guilty verdict, the civil case may still succeed because of the civil case’s lesser burden of proof.

Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful death overview,” accessed Feb. 3, 2015

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