What is a “Wrongful Death” death case and under what circumstances may a civil lawsuit be filed?

When someone is killed as a result of the intentional, reckless or negligent act of another, the deceased person’s estate may file a lawsuit for wrongful death against those individuals or legal entities whose conduct proximately caused the person’s death. The types of cases in which money damages have been recovered for wrongful death include the following:
  • Direct liability of the person who caused the death;
  • Direct liability against a drunken or otherwise negligent driver;
  • Third party liability against a tavern that served alcohol to the driver;
  • Third party liability against retail gun shop owner for failing to adequately secure weapons that were stolen and used to kill innocent victims;
  • Third party liability of private property owner to secure weapons from perpetrator;
  • Third party liability of private property owner to provide safety to a victim of homicide from forseeably dangerous conditions;
  • Third party liability of commercial property owner to provide adequate security to members of the general public.
  • Medical malpractice and nursing home negligence incidents that result in the death

Who may recover damages in a wrongful death claim and for what specific losses?

The damages for wrongful death may be recovered by the heirs and next of kin who were economically dependent on the victim. Oftentimes it is the spouse and children who may recover money damages but it also may include parents, siblings and other heirs who are economically dependent on the victim.. There is also a survivorship claim for the victim’s pain and suffering that is recoverable by his/her estate.

What types of damages are recoverable on behalf of the survivors in wrongful death cases?

  • Economic damages such as loss of future support;
  • Pain and suffering of the victim (called survivor damages)
  • Medical bills
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Loss of benefits, such as pensions or insurance coverage
  • Loss of advice and companionship
  • Punitive damages.

What should I know in deciding whether to pursue a civil claim for damages caused by the actions of a drunk driver?

DWI is truly a national crisis of epidemic proportions. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of New Jersey, approximately 30,000 citations for driving while intoxicated are issued in New Jersey each year. Furthermore, research suggests that only one driver is apprehended for every 700 incidences of intoxicated driving. Too often the criminal justice system cannot provide the necessary measure of justice, and the survivors of DWI must look to civil remedies for compensation. In our many years ofrepresenting homicide survivors and individuals injured through the actions of drunk drivers, we have been able to pursue all avenues of compensation for the victims. In pursuing a civil claim for damages on behalf of victims of DWI, the attorney must be experienced in victims’ rights both the civil and criminal justice systems and be able to thoroughly analyze and evaluate the following issues:
  • The Liability of the driver – proof of degree of intoxication
  • Resisting a claim by the driver to blame the victim
  • Liability of the retail establishment that served alcohol to the driver
  • Liability of the private social host that served alcohol to the driver
  • Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
  • Compensation under NJ Victims of Crime Compensation Agency including catastrophic injury claim
  • Extent of wrongful death damages or personal injury damages.
  • Damages for emotional distress for observing loved one killed or injured

If you have been a victim of sexual assault, what should you expect from your attorney?

The attorney must develop a strong relationship with the victim’s therapist as soon as possible and consult with the therapist before commencing any civil lawsuit for damages.
  1. The attorney must understand that the primary objective is to assist the victim in healing from the effects of the crime, and the attorney must be ever mindful that the criminal and civil justice process can easily re-victimize the victim unless those responsible for her are always there to safeguard her.
  2. A claim must be immediately filed with the NJ Victims of Crime compensation Agency to guarantee that the victim will have adequate mental health counseling benefits available as she is required to move forward in the justice process.
  3. As a general rule, any civil lawsuit for damages should await the conclusion of the criminal case.
  4. In most cases the perpetrator will not have sufficient assets to make a lawsuit against him worthwhile for the victim.
  5. Carefully assess insurance coverage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage for sexual assault that occurred at someone’s home.
  6. Carefully examine 3rd party liability situations for issues such as failure to provide adequate security.
  7. Analyze the potential civil damages carefully to be sure that the lawsuit is in the best interests of the crime victim.
  8. In most cases the attorney should utilize an expert in sexual assault traumatic grief before filing a lawsuit.

What should you do if you are injured in an automobile accident?

If you are seriously injured as a result of the negligent operation of a motor vehicle, take the following steps immediately:
  1. Report the accident to the police and to your insurance company immediately.
  2. Do not sign anything. Insurance adjusters will contact you and try to get you to settle your claim for much less than it may be worth.
  3. Take as many pictures as you can of the accident scene, the vehicles, and your injuries
  4. Visit the doctor right away. Your health and physical well being are more important than anything. It is worth the trip to the doctor to get yourself checked. Do not let the insurance adjuster what doctor you should see. And always, keep detailed records of all visits, medication prescriptions, etc.
  5. Call an attorney who has experience in both civil, criminal and municipal court. If the other driver has been issued a summons or charged criminally for his conduct, we will represent you throughout the municipal court or criminal court proceedings at no charge. We want to be sure that nothing is done in the criminal case that will interfere with your right to receive compensation in the civil damage case.

If someone is killed or injured by gun violence, do they or their survivors have a claim for civil damages against anyone?

According to the National Health Information Network in a single year, 3,012 children and teens were killed by gunfire in the United States, according to the latest national data released in 2002. That is one child every three hours; eight children every day; and more than 50 children every week. And every year, at least 4 to 5 times as many kids and teens suffer from non-fatal firearm injuries. (Children’s Defense Fund and National Center for Health Statistics). American children are more at risk from firearms than the children of any other industrialized nation. In one year, firearms killed no children in Japan, 19 in Great Britain, 57 in Germany, 109 in France, 153 in Canada, and 5,285 in the United States. (Centers for Disease Control). Faulty records enable terrorists, illegal aliens and criminals to purchase guns. Over a two and a half-year period, at least 9,976 convicted felons and other illegal buyers in 46 states obtained guns because of inadequate records. In New Jersey we see parents burying their children as a result of gun violence. In most of these cases, the perpetrator is not caught or if he is, he has no assets to compensate the victim-survivors for their loss. Consult an attorney who will leave no stone unturned in attempting to assess your rights and responsibilities of all those involved. The attorney should inquire into the following:
  • Where did the perpetrator get the gun?
  • Who is the owner of the gun?
  • Was the gun adequately secured by its owner?
  • Did anyone know the perpetrator had the gun?
  • On whose property did the crime take place?
  • Who could have prevented this terrible tragedy from happening?

Can someone file a civil lawsuit for money damages for nursing home abuse?

Each year in the United States there are over one million reports of elder abuse by nursing home staff. This number is growing rapidly due to the expansion of elder population in the US. Approximately 34 million people who are now over the age of 65 need assisted living services. When faced with nursing home abuse, residents and family member are often left feeling confused and angry over the violation of trust by these facilities. Consulting a nursing home abuse attorney who specializes in uncovering abuse can help you regain your power by protecting your legal rights. According to numerous studies reported by the National Center for Elder Abuse the most common type of elder abuse is the general neglect of basic needs. The second most common type is intentional abuse including physical, mental and sexual abuse. General neglect occurs when the staff has a lack of interest for the well being of the elderly by not providing basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. This form of neglect can also lead to more serious forms of disorders such as bed sores. Bed sores are ulcers caused by a constant amount of pressure on a specific area of the body. Bed sores vary in severity often first appearing as persistent red areas on the skin. If left untreated, these sores can develop ulcers that reach the muscle, bone or tendon. The elderly have a higher risk of developing bed sores due to thin skin, malnutrition and poor circulation. This type of neglect is easily preventable, but reversing the damage becomes increasingly difficult if bed sores are left untreated. Intentional abuse of nursing home residents by a staff member or other resident includes physical, mental and even sexual abuse.
  • Physical abuse may be one of the most visible types of violations seen. This type of abuse is often seen in the form of bruises, broken bones and cuts.
  • Mental Abuse in nursing homes is harder to uncover due to the fact it cannot be visibly seen by family members. This form of abuse can be just as harsh as physical abuse and occurs when there is verbal harassment, intentional neglect and isolation from friends and family.
  • Sexual abuse in nursing homes can be forced by staff members or other residents in the facility.

Can someone file a civil lawsuit for money damages for police brutality?

While most police officers act appropriately, the percentage of those who do not can cause great harm. Despite advances in police education and training, police brutality and police misconduct continue to be problems in the United States. When an officer steps outside of the bounds of their authority and violate the civil rights of a citizen it not only has the potential to result in severe physical injury but damages the public’s trust in police officers. Police brutality lawsuits not only seek to obtain compensation for the victim, but also act as an important safeguard in our society to ensure that the appropriate standards for use of force are followed. Types of Police Misconduct and Abuse:
  • Police Brutality and Excessive Use of Force: Police officers are only permitted to use force in proportion to the situation at hand and the threat posed by another person. Examples of excessive force include beatings with fists and batons, improper use of handcuffs, choking, unnecessary use of pepper spray, inappropriate use of police dogs, body slamming or slamming someone head against an object (wall, cement, vehicle, etc.), When excessive force is used that violates an individual’s civil rights results, financial compensation may be available if it results in substantial physical injury or death.
  • False Arrest or Wrongful Imprisonment: The police do not have unlimited authority to arrest or detain people. A police officer must have a reasonable suspicion and probable cause to detain someone for any length of time. Placing someone in prison or jail in an unjustified situation can result in serious financial or emotional damage for an individual.
  • Police Taser Lawsuits: Although many people believe that Taser Stun Guns only deliver non-lethal force, Amnesty International has linked at least 334 deaths to police Taser use. According to a report released by Amnesty, victims were unarmed and did not appear to present a serious threat in 90% of the Taser gun deaths they examined. Repeated shocking and excessive Taser use could cause permanent and potentially fatal injury, and Taser lawsuits can be filed as a result of inadequate training or inappropriate use of the stun guns.
  • Police Shooting Deaths: A weapon should only be drawn by a police officer as a last resort, and in situations where an officer negligently or intentionally injures or kills someone in an unjustified police shooting, compensation may be available through a police wrongful death lawsuit.
  • High Speed Pursuits: High speed pursuits are nighttime news staples, as many people are excited by spills and thrills of police cars chasing wanted fugitives through the streets of the city. There are even entire reality television programs dedicated to police chases and crashes. The real reality is that high speed pursuits are as dangerous to innocent bystanders as they are to the police and alleged perpetrators. Almost 50% of all police chases end in accidents, and a great deal of these accidents result in serious injury or death. There many standards and regulations regarding police pursuits in most jurisdictions throughout the country, but many law enforcement officers will pursue an alleged criminal even for only a minor offense. Speeds in high speed pursuits can easily top 100 miles an hour, and can range miles over city streets, rural roads, and busy rush hour highways. It is unfortunate many innocent victims on the roads suffer injury or loss due to police misconduct during high speed chases. Police must exercise as much caution as possible to avoid injuring innocent people or damaging their property, but sometimes careless officers will risk virtually anything to make a “collar” and arrest the alleged criminal. When this occurs, victims of high speed pursuits can sometimes recover damages against those responsible.
  • Abuse of Power: Abuse of power is a catch-all term for the ways police officers can abuse their positions in law enforcement to take advantage of those they are supposed to serve and protect. Police officers are bound by United States Code 42, section 1983 that states any person who acts as a law enforcement officer is liable for any offenses they commit in violation of a person’s civil rights. As part of their jobs, police can detain, arrest, and kill people. Although most peace officers take their duty to protect and serve the public very seriously, a small percentage will always abuse their power to fulfill selfish personal desires and goals. Abuse of police power usually includes excessive force, false arrest, assault, and illegal killings. Many people who are victims of police abuse of power feel they have no recourse or ability to take action against those who injure them. Fortunately, those who enforce the law are not above the law. If you or someone you know has been a victim of abuse of power you may have the right to seek compensation for the injury and damage you suffer. Take action against those who abuse their power and cause you harm. Contact a dedicated and experienced lawyer today.