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Suing George Zimmerman: Money Damages for Wrongful Death

Suing George Zimmerman:  Money Damages for Wrongful Death

   George Zimmerman’s troubles are far from over.  Aside from threats to his personal safety and possible Federal charges for violation of Trayvon Martin’s civil rights, he will likely face a wrongful death lawsuit for monetary damages.  Even though such a suit is unlikely to generate a settlement or a collectible judgment, there surely will be lawyers willing to take on this case for the publicity it will generate.

   Let’s assume that Zimmerman owns a home and has a homeowner’s insurance policy.  While that policy might cover Zimmerman’s negligent acts, it is unlikely to cover the claims Martin’s family would assert. Insurance policies always exclude coverage for intentional wrongful acts.

   Our law does not permit a person to insure him or herself against intentionally injuring another person.  If one could obtain such insurance, perhaps he or she would feel more inclined to intentionally hurt others.  That is obviously bad for society, and so the courts uphold these kinds of policy exclusions. Therefore, civil suits based on intentional acts are typically only filed against wealthy defendants.

   Recall what happened to O.J. Simpson after he was acquitted of murdering two people in 1994.  A civil court held him liable for Nicole Brown’s wrongful death and ordered him to pay her heirs more than $33 million in damages. Simpson was then stripped of every asset the plaintiffs could get their hands on.

   Civil proof of wrongful death is easier than proving criminal charges of murder or manslaughter.  Simple negligence leading to death is all that must be proven in a wrongful death civil action.  Whether Martin’s heirs will be able to do that is a blog unto itself.  Click below to read my blog on the challenges of collecting from an uninsured defendant.

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