Utah Wrongful Death Cases–Civil or Criminal?
In Utah, a wrongful death claim is a civil claim for money damages for compensation for the legal wrongs. The compensation can be general damages or special damages, like loss of consortium, medical bills, funeral expenses or lost future income.
Yet, at the same time, a criminal action can be pending against the wrongdoer. The civil case and criminal case do have interactions that need to be managed by an experienced Utah wrongful death lawyer.
Civil Wrongful Death Case in Utah.
There are many facets of a wrongful death case. Some wrongful death cases are insurance cases only and are never filed in open public courts. Other wrongful death cases are fully litigated to a jury trial, where the people of the county determine how much money damages to give the wronged heirs.
Venue: The place you file a personal injury wrongful death case is generally where the defendant resides, or where the death occurred. There are some different rules when suing the government and where you can bring the claim, same goes with business who do business state or nationwide. Generally the injured heirs of the deceased choose where to file the lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit. Generally you have two years to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death case in Utah, or forever lose your rights. There clearly are special rules when suing a minor child, the government or when the deceased is a child. If there is any hint of these facts occurring, you should really hire a Utah wrongful death attorney to sort the statute of limitations out clearly for you.
Who Can Bring a Utah Wrongful Death Claim? Generally the direct heirs of the deceased person can bring the claim. It can tricky when most of the family has already pre-deceased the deceased, or when in domestic common law marriages.
See this more in-depth article on Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah. https://www.gunterinjurylaw.com/practice-areas/wrongful-death/
When Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah? You can file suit anytime after the wrongful act causing death, so long as it is within the statute of limitations. Most of the time your personal injury attorney tries to settle first with the insurance company, before resorting to a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Long Does it Take to Finish a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Utah? If there is inadequate insurance money to handle the wrongful death, a wrongful death insurance claim can be finished within a few months.
If you file a wrongful death lawsuit, it can takes a year or so. Some finish with a jury trial rendering a verdict, most do not. See this article on typical time lines in litigated and non-litigated personal injury lawsuits.
Litigated Typical Timelines: https://www.gunterinjurylaw.com/timelines-in-a-litigated-personal-injury-case-2/
Insurance Claims, no Lawsuit Filed. https://www.gunterinjurylaw.com/utah-car-accident-claims-start-to-finish-a-brief-overview/
CONCURRENT CRIMINAL CHARGES AND A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM—THE INTERPLAY.
There can be criminal charges filed against the wrongdoer for killing your loved one. These criminal charges can be Automobile Homicide (https://provocriminaldefense.com/2020/10/05/automobile-homicide/) , Negligent Homicide, DUI causing death https://provocriminaldefense.com/2020/09/15/felony-dui-in-utah/ or negligent discharge of a firearm to name a few.
HERE IS WHERE YOUR CIVIL WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY NEEDS TO MONITOR THE CRIMINAL CHARGES IN YOUR UTAH WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM.
Testimony Sometimes there is critical testimony given in a criminal case that can be used in the civil wrongful death claim. Especially if liability is disputed. Criminal cases move much faster than civil cases and if there is testimony given, it will occur at evidentiary hearings, preliminary exams or trials. A close monitoring of testimony from the police, witnesses or the wrongdoer could prove beneficial in your co-existing wrongful death case if liability is disputed.
Preview of the Facts Via the Criminal Case. If your civil wrongful death case is going to trial, being able to preview a large portion of the underlying factual case in the criminal matter could be beneficial. Understanding how the police officers will testify regarding liability, the crash or what the criminal defendant (wrongdoer) says could be really important.
Criminal Sentencing and Criminal Restitution. All people convicted of crimes must pay criminal victims appropriate criminal restitution. Criminal restitution is money payment for harms caused the victims in crimes. Criminal restitution is generally limited to out-of-pocket expenses, called special damages. Unlike a civil Utah wrongful death case, general damages for pain and suffering are not allowed in criminal restitution orders.
When appropriate, you can seek criminal restitution to benefit your clients in their Utah wrongful death case. Your chosen Utah wrongful death attorney should at least be monitoring what is occurring at criminal sentencing. Did the wrongdoer defendant take the witness stand at sentencing? Did they make a statement that could be used in the civil case?
Criminal restitution is not dischargeable in federal Bankruptcy cases. Once restitution is assigned, it doesn’t go away. You can convert the criminal restitution into a civil judgment and file that judgment lien against any real property the defendant wrongdoer may have in Utah, or may buy in the future.