This is the next post in our series on the handling of wrongful death cases in Minnesota. Our last article discussed dram shop liability in wrongful death cases. It is important to understand that sellers of alcohol may be liable for a death if they illegally sell liquor to someone who subsequently causes an accident. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is important that you retain an attorney with experience in handling a case like yours. In this article we will discuss another important topic – what to expect at a trial. If you require assistance, contact our office today to speak with a Rochester personal injury lawyer. We also handle matters in Owatonna and throughout the southeast part of the state.
We previously discussed the process of attending trial in a trucking accident case. A similar process applies to cases involving a wrongful death. A jury is selected through a process known as voir dire. The plaintiff presents evidence and witnesses. The defense then presents its case and the plaintiff may follow with rebuttal evidence. Rebuttal does not allow new evidence to be introduced. It is only an opportunity for the plaintiff to directly address any claims made during the defense’s portion of the case. The attorneys for each side then make closing statements. After receiving instructions from the judge, the jury deliberates and returns a verdict regarding liability and damages.
A hotly disputed issue in most wrongful death trials is the extent to which the victim was at fault. While cases involving only injuries, not death, often include disputes over whether an accident * caused an injury or simply aggravated a pre-existing condition, this generally is not part of a wrongful death case (although pre-existing conditions are important in determining the deceased’s life expectancy). A defendant in a wrongful death case is more likely to argue that the deceased was the one who was actually responsible for the accident. This is true whether the case involves a car wreck, a commercial trucking accident, or some other incident. It is, therefore, crucial for your attorney to build a strong liability case against the defendant or defendants.
The amount of financial compensation the surviving family members should receive invariably will be debated at trial. As we discussed in our article on calculating financial damages in a wrongful death case, each side is allowed to offer evidence relating to the amount of money the deceased was likely to earn over the remainder of his or her natural life. The defense will propose a different calculation than the plaintiffs. It is up to the jury to decide which side is more persuasive and which calculation is more credible.
One point we cannot stress enough is that you should retain a firm with substantial experience in presenting cases to juries. How your case is presented does significantly impact the jury’s liability determination as well as its calculation of damages. Our firm has recovered more than $125 million in injury and death claims and we are ready to assist you. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.
We also serve SE Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”