If you have lost a family member because of another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act, you know how devastating this can be.
The first step to take after such an event is to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party. A wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of the deceased and seeks compensation for damages suffered by the victim’s survivors.
But the big question remains, how do you prove a wrongful death lawsuit in California? For starters, it helps to have an experienced wrongful death lawyer in California who knows how to investigate the facts of your case and build a solid legal argument that will help you win.
At LA Century Law, we are committed to helping families get justice for their loved one’s wrongful death. We understand that state law and the courts expect strict procedures to be followed and the legal burdens of proving wrongful death elements to be met to stand a chance. We also understand that wrongful death cases are emotionally draining and challenging to endure. That is why we offer free consultations so you can learn more about your options and decide if we’re right for you. Contact us today at (866) 410-1465 to schedule yours.
What is a Wrongful Death in California?
In California, like most states, wrongful death refers to the death of a person caused by the legal fault of another party, including:
- Negligence-based incidents like car accidents
- Intentional acts like assault/battery
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Other types of personal injury
A wrongful death claim must meet specific requirements before being allowed to proceed. First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was legally responsible for causing the decedent’s death. That means the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent, which they breached, resulting in the deceased’s demise.
In addition, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the death. This requires showing that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in bringing about the death. Finally, the plaintiff must establish that the decedent would not have died but for the defendant’s actions.
If you believe that a loved one has been killed due to another person’s negligence or intentional misconduct, contact our office immediately. Our highly experienced lawyers will provide information about filing a wrongful death suit and discuss your rights under the law.
Who Can File California Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
California’s wrongful death statute Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 clearly defines who can file a lawsuit. These include:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner.
- The deceased’s children.
- The deceased’s grandchildren (if the deceased’s children are also deceased).
- Other minor children (e.g., stepchildren) who were at least 50% dependent on the decedent for financial support.
- Anyone else who can prove that they are entitled to the decedent’s property under California’s intestate succession laws. These may include the decedent’s parents, putative spouse, legal guardians, etc.
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in California?
It may be easy to assume that your case qualifies as a wrongful death matter, but it isn’t always that simple. That is why it helps to consult an attorney who understands how to navigate these complicated issues. An attorney will review your situation and help you determine whether you should pursue a wrongful death claim. We’ll explain what steps need to be taken to ensure you have a strong case. Then we’ll work hard to ensure you receive compensation for your loss.
That aside, you must prove the four critical wrongful death elements to win a wrongful death settlement.
Let’s take a closer look at each element.
1. Cause of Death/Negligence
First, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence or other wrongdoing caused the death of your loved one. To do this, you must show that the defendant’s actions played a role in the death.
For example, if someone dies after a heart attack, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their doctor was negligent. It could just as easily be that the patient had some underlying health condition that made them more susceptible to a heart attack. If so, there wouldn’t be any liability. However, if the death occurred because the doctor failed to diagnose and treat the patient properly, they could be liable.
2. Legal Responsibility
Next, you must show that a duty existed between the parties. A duty is a relationship where one party owes another a specific obligation. For example, a driver owes other motorists and road users a duty to drive safely. The same goes for doctors; they owe patients a duty to exercise reasonable care when providing medical treatment.
So if a doctor, for instance, negligently fails to diagnose and treat a patient with cancer, they would be legally responsible for their failure to act. Even if the doctor did everything right, they still might be held accountable if the patient died from complications related to the disease.
3. Actual Causation
Here, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct caused or substantially contributed to the death of their loved one. That means the defendant’s negligence must have been a substantial factor in causing the death.
In other words, the defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of the death or a significant contributing cause. And the fatal injury would not have happened but for the defendant’s negligence.
Finally, you must provide evidence that the damages you suffered were due to the death of your loved one. This includes financial losses such as funeral expenses, lost wages, medical bills, and emotional distress.
You also must prove that the amount of money you seek is fair and reasonable, given the circumstances surrounding the death. In other words, you must show that your request for damages is commensurate with the harm you’ve experienced.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney at LA Century Law Today
So these are the four essential elements of a wrongful death suit. And as you can tell, it takes a lot of work to prove all four elements. Luckily, you do not have to do it alone. A qualified California wrongful death attorney will work by your side to help you get through this difficult time.
At LA Century Law, we understand how devastating a wrongful death claim can be. We know what it feels like to lose a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly. Our job is to ensure you receive every compensation possible for your loss. We gather the facts, prove the case, and present the best arguments before a jury.
We’re here to help you recover the full value of your loved one’s lost life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.
California Wrongful Death FAQs
What is the wrongful death statute of limitations in California?
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years. So that means you have two years from when your loved one passes on to bring a wrongful death suit.
What damages are available in a California wrongful death claim?
You may pursue economic and non-economic damages in a California wrongful death suit. Economic damages may include funeral expenses, loss of earnings, medical bills, lost value of household services, and more. Non-economic damages may include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, grief, and more.