New York City Personal Injury Law Blog
How to Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case
What is Liability?
To prove liability in a wrongful death case means to show to the jury who is responsible for the person’s untimely and unnatural death. Since the person is already deceased, it can be a challenging task to show what caused the premature death and that that death would not have occurred in the absence of such cause/s.
How to Prove Liability?
One of the key ways of proving liability in a wrongful death lawsuit is through an autopsy. An autopsy is an examination of a person who died, and is performed by a doctor known as a pathologist or a medical examiner. The pathologist will conduct a thorough examination of the body, and he will evaluate lab work to determine exactly why the person died. By understanding why the person died, the lawyer can go back and look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the person’s death.
This way the lawyer can determine whether somebody did something wrong and whether there was any carelessness that resulted in the person’s death. For instance, did the person die because of failure to recognize, diagnose, and treat the cancer? Was the death the result of a severe car accident? Why did the painter fall off the ladder? Why was a young girl walking a 120 pound pit bull that could easily break lose and be a menace to the community?
The lawyer needs to know what the facts were surrounding the person’s death. Once he has this coveted information, and understands the medical records leading up to the person’s death, the autopsy will help the lawyer understand exactly why the person died. Many times, the family of a person who has died prematurely is not sure whether to have an autopsy done or not. In such instances, their lawyer will discuss with them the pros and cons of having an autopsy performed.
Pros and Cons of Performing an Autopsy
Just because you do an autopsy, it does not necessarily mean it will help you. The autopsy can definitely assist you only if the findings point to any wrongdoing. However, there are many instances where the autopsy is performed and it leads to the opposite conclusion which is the absence of any wrongdoing. Hence, should you schedule an autopsy to prove liability in wrongful death case? The answer may depend entirely on the circumstances leading to your loved one’s death.
It may not be impossible to succeed in proving liability in wrongful death case without an autopsy; however, in most instances it will be very difficult to convince the jury without an autopsy report. Even if your case is strong and the reason for death and wrongdoing seems obvious, the jury may not be fully satisfied that you are more likely right than wrong without an autopsy.
The autopsy report provides definitive proof about the cause of death, which then can be linked to the wrongdoing. In the absence of an autopsy report, there is always the doubt that death could have been caused by some other factors or the wrongdoing might be only partly responsible for the person’s death.