If a loved one was killed in an accident, our lawyers can fight for you.  Our goal is to win wrongful death lawsuits and to get our clients the payments and compensation they need to move forward after losing someone they love.  As such, we understand what it takes and can go over some of the core principles regarding how to win these claims.

First, you must understand the elements of the claim and prove each one (duty, breach, causation, and damages).  Second, you must have enough strong evidence to meet the burden of proof in your case – the “preponderance of the evidence” standard.  Third, you must understand some of the factors around how strong of a chance you have of winning your case.

For a free case review, call Legal Care New Jersey’s NJ wrongful death lawyers today at (732) 838-9769.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in New Jersey

To win your case, you have to prove each element of a wrongful death lawsuit.  In a wrongful death case, you typically allege that the victim was killed by the defendant’s negligence, which has the following four elements:


For someone to be responsible for someone’s death, there must be some law or legally imposed duty that made them responsible for the victim’s safety.  Our NJ personal injury lawyers can point to some duties based on a relationship between the victim and the defendant, such as the duty for a doctor to provide adequate care to their patient.  Property owners also owe a duty to guests, making them responsible for deaths involving drowning, electrocution, structural collapses, fires, and similar accidents.

Sometimes the duty is as simple as the duty contained in a traffic law, making drivers responsible for another driver’s or a passenger’s death even if they had no preexisting relationship.  Some common duties imposed on drivers are the duty to drive sober, to follow the speed limit, and to avoid distractions while driving.


A violation of a duty is called a “breach” under this legal framework.  Often, the breach of a duty is what we might call a “wrongful act” in a wrongful death case.  For example, a driver who was drunk and crashed into your loved one’s car clearly committed a wrongful act; the legal analysis would say that this is also a breach of the duty to follow NJ’s drunk driving laws.

Many times, the question of whether there is a breach or not will be a big point of litigation.  For example, you will need a medical expert’s testimony to prove that a doctor’s care breached the “standard of care.”  Various cases may also need strong technical testimony to show that there was a problem with defective medication, auto parts, or some other product responsible for your loved one’s death.


If the breach of duty was what actually killed your loved one, the causation element should be met.  In some cases, tragic accidents are unavoidable, and whether the defendant breached a duty or not might not have actually made a difference.  Sometimes, intervening causes make someone else liable, making them the best target for your lawsuit instead of a potentially more obvious target.


The death itself is enough harm to show that there were damages.  Additionally, you can get compensation for the economic effects of your loved one’s death, such as lost wages, funeral expenses, medical bills, and more.

Burden of Proof in Wrongful Death Cases in NJ

To win your case, you need to prove each element according to the legal standard involved in these cases.  Criminal cases for murder, manslaughter, or another form of criminal killing use a much higher burden called the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden, where the prosecution as to prove the case to essentially 98-99 %.  The “by a preponderance of the evidence” standard in civil injury and death cases is much lower, equating to around 51%.

Our attorneys need to get the jury to believe your side of the case just a bit more than the other side’s in order to win your case, which is a burden we can often meet with strong evidence and facts on our side.

If there is both a civil and a criminal case for your loved one’s death, the difference in the burden of proof can be helpful.  If the criminal case was successful and your loved one’s killer was convicted, then the work is essentially finished; since that case has a higher burden of proof, the issue in your wrongful death case is already decided.  We still need to prove damages, but the core element of fault was already adjudicated.

If the criminal case loses, we can still potentially win your wrongful death lawsuit because the civil burden of proof is lower.

The Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit in NJ

In civil injury and death cases, the burden of proof creates a pretty equal playing field.  Since either side needs to win by a small margin to be successful, the odds are essentially 50/50 of winning your case from the outset.  However, different evidence and facts can change the chances of success drastically.

If your loved one was killed in a tragic way, juries are more likely to be sympathetic to your claim and rule in your favor.  This also often creates more publicity around the death and evidence of what happened, especially when criminal or government investigations took place, such as in cases of homicide or accidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Additionally, if you and our attorneys act quickly, we can collect evidence, potentially strengthening your case.  Claims with strong evidence – and a lot of evidence – often have a higher chance of succeeding.

Claims are also generally more likely to win when the victim was innocent.  If they did something questionable or also did something wrong, it makes the case weaker.  However, NJ law does allow for partial fault to be assigned to each party.

Lastly, claims are often more successful when filed quickly.  Sitting on the evidence for a long period of time before coming forward can often make it seem like the case was not serious enough to bring or you might have made up evidence in the meantime while you waited to file.

Call Our Lawyers Immediately for Help with a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in NJ

Call Legal Care New Jersey today at (732) 838-9769 for a free case evaluation with our Union City, NJ wrongful death lawyers.