Common Defense Strategies In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Whether you’re a close friend or family member of someone killed in an accident — or the person who caused it — you should know about common defense strategies used in wrongful death lawsuits. If you’re related to the victim, you should ask your attorney for information about the useful attack strategies. You should also ask about the strategies most commonly employed on behalf of defendants. If you’re the defendant, you need to know the same but in reverse. 

The most common revolves around statute of limitations laws. You can’t build a case whenever you like. Generally, the plaintiffs have only two or three years to plan and implement strategies for winning a wrongful death case. The exact time period is dependent on several factors, including state and region, and the nature of the accident or crime. Once the deadline has come and gone, it’s up to the defense team to argue that the case should be dismissed.

In cases where criminal intent was measured during an accident or crime during which someone was killed, a defense attorney might argue self-defense (or in limited circumstances, the plaintiffs might have reason to argue the victim had been engaged in self-defense acts when killed). 

Self-defense can be difficult to prove in court because the party must prove lethal aggression was justified under the circumstances. In criminal court, juries measure this proof beyond reasonable doubt. In civil court, the judge or jury need only find that the action was more likely reasonable than not. 

Sometimes, parties might have signed waivers. For example, you would likely assume risk and sign away liability when going whitewater rafting. That means you’re responsible for any accident that result from the activity, freeing the rafting guide or instructor from the same. 

Some state laws measure comparative negligence. This means that a plaintiff might not be entitled to the full value of any expenses resulting from an accident because the victim was partially responsible. Courts have the right to measure responsibility in percentages in such cases.

Why Do Los Angeles Residents Build Personal Injury Cases?

Injuries are sustained by individuals all over the planet — but a person living on the coast is more likely to drown than a person living inland, and a person living next to Home Depot is more likely to be run over by a forklift than a person living next to a Roman Catholic church. That’s one reason why regional demographics factor into the likelihood of one kind of personal injury case over another. 

And then there’s another difference: What do residents care about most? A Texan might care about a burned flag more than a New Yorker, for example, whereas a resident of Vermont might care more about environmental spills and contaminants than someone who lives in Alabama. What do Los Angeles residents care about the most? These are the most common personal injury cases in the city of angels.

The vast majority of Los Angeles personal injury claims were the result of slips, trips, and falls. These accidents occur when a business fails to place a sign near a wet floor or a municipality fails to fix a bumpy sidewalk. They might occur as the result of inattentiveness — or they might occur when someone tries to pull a fast one (although we don’t recommend building a frivolous lawsuit because the consequences can be financially disastrous). There have been nearly a million claims in this category.

Construction is common in big cities like Los Angeles, which is why the next most common claim resulted from falling objects (that caused injury). These can occur when an object is dropped from a high point at a construction site. They can also occur when objects in storage fall inside a retail establishment. Not surprisingly, these claims blow up after earthquakes.

Los Angeles is also known around the world for its traffic congestion. Car accidents are the next most likely cause of a personal injury claim — and they tend to result in big verdicts for the injured parties. Accidents can result from gridlock or driver error, but they can also happen because of drugs, alcohol, or even potholes. Pedestrian and motorcycle accidents are common as well.

The fourth most likely reason for a personal injury claim is overexertion. These are common because of the number of retail brick and mortar stores and warehouses operating inside the city limits. Overexertion can also occur at construction sites or during sports activities. It’s partly on the “boss” to maintain good safety practices. When the boss fails, the boss gets sued. 

Cutting and piercing injuries are also common in Los Angeles. These occur due to assault and battery, gunshots, blenders, animal bites or attacks, nail gun accidents, and even tattoo artists failing to maintain ink guns. 

Should you know anyone who was injured for these (or other) reasons and it’s someone else’s fault, they have the right to sue. More importantly, the vast majority of personal injury lawyers work on contingency — which means they don’t get paid upfront. There’s no collection of fees until a winning verdict or settlement is made.

Examples Of Weird Or Controversial Personal Injury Cases

The victims of personal injury aren’t always who you might expect. They include children bitten by the neighbor’s cat, grandma’s fall at the doctor’s office, automobile drivers who were hurt when the seatbelt failed, construction workers who sustained injuries from a falling hammer, consumers burned by hot coffee — even criminals who step on a nail while breaking and entering. Do you have a case? You never know, and here’s why.

The country was in awe when Stella Liebeck sued the local McDonald’s franchise after scalding herself with coffee she had purchased there. She won $6 after the franchise chose to settle the case outside of court, a victory that surprised more than a few people. A decade later, someone tried — and failed — to sue McDonald’s for making Americans obese. But even though McDonald’s won the case, the establishment still axed supersize meals from the menu.

Jessie Ingram tried to save money by installing a custom and homemade security system to protect his bar from intruders. But when one man decided to commit a “breaking and entering” criminal act, he was shocked by the weird security system. Intruder Larry Harris suffered injury because of the device, and sued to the tune of $75,000 — and emerged from court victorious. Even criminals have the right to sue for personal injury when breaking the law, so make sure to keep your home or business up to code. 

One common example of a controversial lawsuit works under the same premise: when an intruder decides to take an illegal dip in a homeowner’s pool without obtaining permission, who’s liable when the intruder drowns? Families have sued for lack of fencing, lack of warning signs, and everything in between. Sometimes they win.

When two community-oriented Colorado adolescents decided to gift everyone in the neighborhood cookies, one woman sued. The reason? She insisted she suffered an anxiety attack at the sight of the mysterious cookies, and even called the police. The teens lost $900 for their volunteer effort. No good deed goes unpunished, or so it would seem.

How Are Personal Injury And Criminal Defense Cases Related?

At first glance personal injury and criminal defense cases have nothing to do with one another. For example, a typical personal injury case arises from car accidents. One person’s negligence results in the accident, and the victim sues. By comparison, a typical criminal defense case arises when the defendant is arrested by police for committing a crime. How could they possibly be related? The truth is these cases often go hand in hand.

For example, let’s say the defendant in the aforementioned car accident case purposely caused the accident. Alternatively, maybe the driver was texting illegally or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These are criminal offenses, but anyone injured in the resulting car accident also has grounds to build a civil case against the offender. This case will be made that much easier if the defendant is found guilty in criminal court. 

The biggest difference between a criminal defense attorney and personal injury attorney is the type of court in which they argue a case. Criminal defense attorneys fight against criminal charges, while personal injury attorneys fight against civil charges. Criminal defense attorneys fight in criminal court, while personal injury attorneys fight in civil court. Generally, you won’t see these two types of attorney mix — even though they’re related because the cases are often related. 

Both types of cases require similar groundwork as well, which means both types of attorneys will perform similar tasks. The first act of business is investigating a claim. Does the claim have merit? Is the person with the claim acting due to actual injury, or might they be lying? Might they be acting vindictively? The answers to these questions matter in court. 

Both types of lawyers will begin to gather evidence and document every aspect of a case. They collect eyewitness accounts, police reports, bills, video surveillance, and explore expert testimony if needed. Criminal defense lawyers will contact the prosecution to explore a plea deal when a client will likely be found guilty of a crime. Personal injury lawyers will likely contact insurance adjusters if a client is entitled to other means of compensation.

Both civil and criminal cases conduct discovery, which is gathering evidence from the opposing side. Generally, an attorney will send someone to conduct an interview with the defendant or plaintiff and the opposition’s counsel. Neither side has the right to refuse the discovery process, but a criminal defense attorney might ask his client to plead the fifth — especially when guilty, but sometimes to legally conceal information that might be interpreted incorrectly in court.

Both types of lawyers might end up arguing a case in court, but both would almost always prefer to settle a case outside of court to save time and money.

Visit our website for more information on how personal injury and criminal defense cases are interrelated. Our network of qualified personal injury and criminal defense attorneys can help steer you in the right direction and find legal representation in every corner of the United States.

Can I Defend Myself In A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Let’s say you were in a major car accident. You don’t believe the facts support the story that you were the one guilty of causing the accident. Insurance companies and police investigators have concluded differently, however. And worst of all, one of the survivors of the car accident has decided to build a personal injury and wrongful death case against you. Is it possible to defend yourself in court?

First and foremost, you should never even consider defending yourself in court — even if you’re a lawyer yourself. For the sake of argument, let’s say you’re a blue collar worker and not a lawyer. This case could destroy your ability to earn money for your family for the rest of your life, and your family is already barely scraping by just below the poverty line.

You don’t know the law. And without knowing or practicing the law, you won’t have any real ability to preempt the plaintiff’s lawyers by intuiting what their arguments will be or knowing how to counter them even if you did. This is the primary reason to hire a lawyer. They know the law! And they’re already accustomed to fighting certain types of cases in or out of court.

If there were mistakes during a police investigation, your lawyers might be able to find them. They might also be able to negotiate with authorities on your behalf. Remember, if the police found you responsible for the car accident, then a criminal case might also be brewing behind the scenes. Your lawyer can find out if that’s what’s happening — but as an outsider, you won’t be able to do the same.

Another important reason to hire a lawyer? They might be able to negotiate a settlement if it turns out you are, indeed, liable for the accident. No one wants to take a chance in court, and you shouldn’t either.

I’m Divorced, But My Ex-Spouse Wants My Personal Injury Settlement!

A reader recently asked a question about what would happen to her personal injury settlement cash, for which she is currently being sued by her ex-spouse. We’ll call the defendant in this case Sue Ellen. The plaintiff is Nash. Sue Ellen wants to know if a personal injury settlement is considered marital property so she knows what to expect in court — how might a judge rule on the lawsuit against her?

We had to do a little digging, but we discovered there was more to Sue Ellen’s story. It turns out she was involved in a fairly horrific car accident. She was severely injured, but eventually recovered completely. Her former husband stood by her. 

This is where the story takes a turn. Sue Ellen decided to launch a personal injury lawsuit against the party at fault for the car accident (which left one person dead, by the way). She won that lawsuit handily. The problem is, she conspired to keep the whole thing a secret from her husband. When it became clear she would win her lawsuit — which was worth six figures — she handed Nash divorce papers. He reluctantly signed. 

Sue Ellen made a mistake by keeping the impending settlement from her former lover. She made an even bigger mistake by failing to mention these assets to her divorce attorney — and to the judge handling their divorce case. The divorce was finalized one year ago.

Now, Nash learned that Sue Ellen pulled one over on him (because a family friend told him she was living the high life). He reacted like anyone would, especially considered he was paying alimony: he filed a personal injury case of his own.

Interestingly, Sue Ellen should be more worried about going to jail than losing her money — because you can’t bring it with you. Should Nash go to the judge who ruled in their divorce case, he could ask for perjury charges to be filed against Sue Ellen. She could also face very steep fines for lying to the court. We’re honestly surprised this hasn’t happened yet, but maybe prosecutors are staying inside with COVID. Time will tell.

And now for the last part of the case. Nash has a better claim to the personal injury settlement Sue Ellen won — but hid — because she decided to break the law by hiding it. Her case certainly isn’t helped by the fact that she only decided to divorce Nash once she knew she would win that case. 

Other factors include state laws determining what might be marital property and what might be personal or separate property. But judges generally don’t rule in favor of those who lie to them in a court of law.

You can view website attorneys to find out if your personal injury claim will end up in your ex-spouse’s hands. It’s always better to get a free consultation and share the details of your case before making any decisions that could change your life for better or worse.

Robert Durst In-Laws Suing Second Wife For Alleged Wrongful Death

Robert Durst passed away only months after he was convicted of murdering confidante Susan Berman. He’s been dead barely two months, and the floodgates of litigation seem to have opened. His first wife was Kathie McCormack Durst, and many suspect he killed her too. Now, Kathie’s family has coincidentally chosen to sue Durst’s second wife — who will likely inherit millions from the real estate mogul. 

The lawsuit posits that Debrah Lee Charatan, Durst’s second wife, was complicit in helping him escape the lawman for the murder of the first wife — something authorities could never prove. 

Charatan’s lawyer, Scott Epstein, said, “The plaintiffs’ claims are at best an example of the most extreme form of speculation and at worst nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to publicly embarrass and extort money from Mr. Charatan, an innocent party, who is perceived by the plaintiffs as a deep pocket.”

He added that the rumors of Kathie’s death were “more suitable for a work of fiction.”

It’s worth noting that the burden of proof falls on the plaintiffs in a civil trial, much as the burden of proof would fall to the prosecution in a criminal trial. The difference, however, is that the plaintiffs don’t need to meet the burden of proving their case “beyond reasonable doubt.” All they need to do is convince a jury that their case is more likely true than not true (or convince the second wife to settle out of course, which we feel is almost as likely).

A previous lawsuit was filed in 2019 and subsequently dismissed by a judge because Durst had never faced criminal charges. He promised to breathe new life into the case should Durst ever be tried for murder — and now he has. It’s too early to know whether or not anything will come from these newly revisited allegations.

Arnold Schwarzenegger At Risk Of Personal Injury Lawsuit

Former California governor and long-time actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was involved in a multi-vehicle car accident in late January, authorities say. One woman driving a Toyota Prius was injured during the collision and brought to a nearby hospital for laceration treatment. The accident occurred at the junction of Sunset Boulevard and Allenford Avenue in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Drake Madison told Fox News, “There was a four-vehicle traffic accident on Sunset and Allenford at 4:35 p.m….One vehicle on top of another. He said that “one female was transported to a local hospital with an abrasion.”

According to TMZ, Jake Steinfeld was also in Schwazenegger’s car at the time of the accident. There are no signs of alcohol or drug use.

In many high-profile accidents such as the aforementioned, the injured parties are much more likely to file a personal injury lawsuit. This is primarily because of “ambulance chasers,” or attorneys who seek out injured parties for easy out-of-court lawsuits they know they can settle without much of a fight. Celebrities make easier targets.

In this case, though, victim Habiba Muminova turned out to be a huge fan of Schwarzenegger’s. Coincidentally, Muminova’s job actually involves driving clients to doctor’s appointments! Due to the accident — which left her and her vehicle damaged — she is unable to work. Muminova has back pain. It turns out she does expect to contact a lawyer following the accident. She told reporters she thought she was hallucinating when she saw the actor. Schwarzenegger apparently suffered no injuries.

TMZ reported that Schwarzenegger was at fault for the crash. Authorities have yet to comment. 

Schwarzenegger’s bank account can surely afford to take a hit in or out of court, but he recently finalized a divorce that likely set him back a pretty penny.

Los Angeles is one of the worst cities for car owners, who spend more time than average waiting in traffic. For comparison’s sake, NYC ranks number three, and Moscow ranks number two. Drivers might expect to wait dozens of hours in traffic each year. The average LA driver spends an awe-inspiring $1,774 in gas and servicing bills every year simply waiting in traffic. Schwarzenegger was seen riding his bike in the days following the accident.

Were you in a serious car accident? Whether or not you believe yourself to be at fault, you should collect information from witnesses, call the police, notify insurance adjusters, seek medical attention, and find a personal injury attorney for legal advice on possible next steps. You may or may not be at fault, but you might have a personal injury case either way — especially if more than two parties were involved in the accident, or the accident resulted from a defective vehicle.

You Lost Your Personal Injury Claim: What To Do Next

Let’s say the worst happens and you were in a catastrophic car accident. The collision was someone else’s fault — but at trial, the judge ruled against your personal injury claim. Maybe the judge even ruled that you were more likely at fault. All at once, your life might fall apart. What can you do? Here are the next steps.

Chances are you already have a personal injury lawyer. This is a good chance to find out if that lawyer really was the best fit for you and your case. Maybe you can find someone else who appears to believe in your claims.

There’s really only one action to take after losing your personal injury claim in court. You appeal the ruling of the case. Keep in mind that this is a slow, grueling process — and that an appeals court is unlikely to overturn a ruling.

In general, there are only a few reasons why a higher court would overturn a ruling made in a lower court. Usually, a mistake must have been made. Unfortunate though it may be, the appellate court will not reevaluate evidence. Instead, the court will provide additional analysis of the laws involved. 

That’s why most of the best options for next steps don’t involve the courts at all. Seek advice from a financial consultant and take another look at your insurance. Did your car insurance provider find you at fault for the accident? They may have reached a different decision than the court. Either way, you might be entitled to compensation through insurance. 

Another possibility? Sue someone else. Perhaps evidence uncovered during the discovery process points to another negligent party. You might have legal recourse there. 

Speak with your personal injury lawyer regardless of which choice you make. Don’t ignore legal counsel. Remember: these individuals know more about the law than laymen ever could. They will always try to act in a client’s best interests — because it’s in their own best interests to do so.

Who Is Responsible For The Burden Of Proof In Civil Litigation?

Those who don’t practice law are often confused by the phrase “burden of proof” and how it applies to specific parties in court. According to Cornell University, the burden of proof is simply a standard by which a particular party must prove a face in the court of law. The burden of proof doesn’t fall on both defendant and prosecutor/plaintiff equally, though. Where does the burden of proof lie? Is there a difference between criminal and civil litigation? Here are the facts.

Where you live in the United States and which branch of law an attorney practices has nothing to do with burden of proof. For example, a New York business attorney working on behalf of a plaintiff in a civil case will have to meet the same burden of proof as a Los Angeles personal injury attorney working on behalf of a client in a different civil case.

Regardless of whether a particular case is criminal or civil, the burden of proof still falls on the accuser. In criminal cases, this is the prosecutor. In civil cases, it’s the plaintiff. The defendant has the right to defend, but they need not prove their innocence to be found not guilty of criminal or civil liability. 

However, the burden of proof is far greater in criminal court than civil court. What does this mean? Let’s say you’re a prosecutor trying to prove that the defendant committed a murder. Law requires you to prove these facts beyond reasonable doubt.

That means that the prosecutor must completely convince a jury that the facts mean the defendant committed the murder. If there is any room for doubt, a jury must find a defendant “not guilty.”

Now let’s say you’re the plaintiff in a civil case. You’re trying to prove that your neighbor’s dog took a bite out of your thigh. The burden of proof still exists — and the onus is on you to make the case — but you don’t have to prove the facts beyond reasonable doubt.

For example, California Civil Jury Instruction 200 says: “A party must persuade you [the jury], by the evidence presented in court, that what he or she is required to prove is more likely to be true than not true. This is referred to as ‘the burden of proof.’”

In other words, the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s counsel still must convince the jury (in cases where a jury is required) or the judge (in cases where a jury is not required) of the defendant’s guilt. Should the jury or judge be convinced, then it is likely (according to law) that the defendant is actually guilty. Or rather, it is more likely than unlikely. That’s the burden of proof for civil cases. 

This is unfortunate for many defendants who appear guilty but aren’t. It’s also unfortunate for the judicial process in general, because the low burden of proof for civil litigation is one of the reasons why there are so many frivolous cases in the United States.