A wrongful death claim allows you to recover damages associated with the loss of a loved one who died due to another person's fault. Like other civil lawsuits, the defendant in a wrongful death case will do their best to avoid liability for the death. Learn about some of the defenses that defendants typically use in such cases.
You may fail to recover any damages from the defendant if the court deems that the defendant killed your loved one in self-defense. Michigan, just like other states, allows its residents to defend themselves from dangerous people.
The following are some of the specific factors that must apply for the self-defense defense to hold:
- The defendant believed that the deceased would cause them or another person great bodily harm, death, or sexual assault.
- The deceased broke or wanted to break into a home or business, attempted to kidnap or kidnapped another person, or occupied another person's car unlawfully.
Michigan is among the states that use the stand-your-ground rule that allows an individual to defend themselves with reasonable force if someone threatens them or their property.
The defendant may also claim that the deceased contributed to their demise. If the defendant succeeds with this argument, then the court may reduce some of the damages and bar recovery for other damages according to the specifics of the case.
Michigan uses modified comparative negligence laws, which reduces economic damages even if the court finds that an injury victim contributed to more than 50% of their injuries. On the other hand, modified comparative negligence bars recovery of non-economic damages if the victim's contribution exceeded 50%.
Assumption of Risk
The assumption-of-risk defense alleges that the deceased knowingly placed themselves in harm's way. The rationale is that the deceased wouldn't have died if they had used their knowledge to avoid the danger that led to their demise. For a defendant to succeed with this defense, they must prove that:
- The deceased knew about the danger.
- The deceased voluntarily placed themselves in harm's way.
The assumption-of-risk defense may apply whether the defendant expressly accepted the risk or implied their consent. For example, car racing is an inherently dangerous activity, and anyone who agrees to race also accepts the risk — even if they don't expressly say so.
Lack of Causation
For you to succeed with a wrongful death claim, you must prove that the defendant's negligent act or inaction actually caused your loved one's demise. If the defendant has even the slightest suspicion that something or someone else caused your loved one's demise, then expect them to pin the blame on those other parties.
For example, if your loved one died in a multiple-vehicle auto accident, the drivers will point fingers to each other to deflect blame for the accident. You must identify the actual driver who caused your loved one's death to win the wrongful death lawsuit.
Lastly, your wrongful death lawsuit may also fail if the defendant proves that the deceased was involved in a criminal activity at the time of their demise. You cannot get wrongful death compensation for a death that arises out of a criminal activity. For example, your case may fail if your loved one was killed in a robbery case.
As you can see, you have your work cut out for you if you want to win a wrongful death claim. At Marienfeld Law, PLLC, we handle such complex cases all the time, and we can help you with your case. Contact us for a free initial consultation if you suspect your loved one died at the negligent hands of another person.