Under the laws of this or any other state, if a person’s carelessness or cruelty injures you (breaking your arm, for example), you may be able to sue them in a personal injury lawsuit. And in Connecticut, if the injury they inflicted turns out to be fatal that person’s responsibility does not much change. In much the same way as in a non-fatal injury, they are still “liable for damages,” as attorneys say.
This simple concept can help in understanding much else about wrongful death lawsuits in Connecticut.
What do you have to prove?
The details of what the survivors or family must prove differ somewhat depending on the circumstances surrounding the death. Still, a set of basic concepts are consistent from case to case.
The survivors and their representatives must show that the person who caused the death had a duty of some kind toward the person who died. For example, a driver has duties toward the other drivers sharing the road with them. A surgeon has duties to a patient on their operating table.
Those bringing the wrongful death suit must also show that the person failed to meet that duty. After all, people sometimes die even when everyone around them does everything they could have and should have done.
Finally, they must show that the person’s failure to meet their responsibilities was the cause of the person’s death. This cannot be taken for granted. If a person suffers injuries that nobody could survive, it will likely not be possible to hold the paramedics liable for the person’s death, even if they show up completely unable and unwilling to meet their responsibilities toward the injured person.
How much evidence do you need?
Because a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case (instead of a criminal case) there is no need to prove that the accused is “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Instead, a successful suit must meet a lower standard of evidence. They have the lesser burden of proof known as “a preponderance of evidence.” If the person is even slightly more likely than not to be responsible, perhaps for example 50.1% likely, this is enough to meet the standard.
This is the reason defendants who win by being found not guilty in a criminal trial sometimes lose and are found liable when the family later sues in civil court.