The prevalence of gun violence in America means a prevalence of subsequent criminal cases. Gun violence – whether a purposeful attack or an accidental shooting – can leave victims severely injured, or even dead. After a violent attack, there are a few judicial proceedings that could take place. The most obvious type of case would be a criminal case, since it is unlawful to injure or kill someone with a gun. But what about a personal injury or wrongful death case? Can multiple cases happen concurrently? Keep reading to find out.
Criminal Cases vs. Personal Injury Cases
When it comes to incidents of gun violence, the case that follows will often qualify as both a criminal case and personal injury or wrongful death case. Since it is illegal to harm someone with a gun, the shooter could be tried for any number of crimes including illegal possession of a firearm, improper handling of a firearm, aggravated assault, or murder. The government is responsible for prosecuting criminal cases and holding law breakers responsible through court.
Personal injury cases, on the other hand, are civil cases based on the concept of negligence. They seek to determine whether the defendant owes the plaintiff money for the harm their negligence caused. Many gunshot cases qualify, because the shooter or a third party was acting negligently, leading to the injury or death. For example, if a child got ahold of a gun at home and shot someone, the parents could be held liable for their negligence in allowing the child to access the gun.
But if a criminal case is underway, why would someone want to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim as well? The reason this happens is because a criminal case, while possibly successful in punishing the criminal, may not provide the victim with enough compensation to cover their damages. Damages for gun shootings may include medical bills for injuries, lost income for time off work spent recovering, and pain and suffering.
In cases where a victim was fatally shot, their family will need money to pay for their funeral costs, among other expenses. Family members of the victim may also be able to seek punitive damages for intentional malice, according to the wrongful death attorneys of Hastings & Hastings. Civil cases also have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases, so they may be more successful in recovering damages.
Third Party Lawsuits
In some instances, a third party claim may be filed, such as a product liability claim against the gun manufacturer. If someone is killed from an accidental gunshot, and the cause was a faulty gun part, the maker or seller of the gun could be held responsible. Product liability includes design defects, manufacturing defects, and also “failure to warn of a product’s dangerous characteristics.” So if a gun was sold to a consumer with inadequate warnings, or a faulty part, a third party could be named in the wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit. However, federally licensed manufacturers and arms dealers are protected from lawsuits by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
Other third parties named in a lawsuit could include an organization (school, prison, nursing home) or a supervisor (teacher, manager, security guard) who was responsible for preventing violence from happening on that property. For more information on filing a civil lawsuit after a shooting, contact a personal injury attorney in your area.