Prove a Wrongful Death: Unveiling 7 Insights You Need to Know

Article from Aug 16, 2023

If you’re grappling with the tragic loss of a loved one due to someone else’s intentional actions or negligence, you might be seeking ways to prove a wrongful death on their behalf. As surviving family members or legal representatives of the deceased’s estate, you hold the potential to file a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against the individual responsible for your loved one’s passing.

However, navigating a wrongful death claim is a complex journey, as it demands meeting strict legal criteria to secure a favorable outcome. Compensation for the survivors hinges on proving these crucial elements, underscoring the importance of collaborating with a seasoned California wrongful death attorney who comprehends the intricacies of your case.

Demystifying Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit functions as a civil claim against an individual whose negligent or malicious actions directly led to the death of another person. These legal proceedings are initiated on behalf of the victim, who would have pursued a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived.

In cases where the defendant is deemed legally liable for the death, the survivors of the deceased are entitled to compensation for the losses they have endured. The compensation packages stemming from these cases encompass both financial and non-financial damages arising from the defendant’s actions.

Understanding the Scope of Wrongful Death Claims

In California, there are specific parameters defining who can file a wrongful death claim. This is limited to the deceased’s immediate survivors or a designated legal representative. This includes surviving spouses, domestic partners, and children. In instances where direct survivors are absent, other family members such as siblings, parents, or legal guardians can also initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.

Common Scenarios Prompting Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims are filed in the aftermath of various accidents or circumstances that result in a person’s death. Some of the typical scenarios leading to wrongful death lawsuits encompass:

  1. Motor Vehicle Accidents: Collisions where the negligence of another driver contributes to a fatal accident can be grounds for a wrongful death case.
  2. Medical Negligence: Failure to provide appropriate medical care, resulting in the patient’s death, can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
  3. Intentional Acts: Criminal actions such as shootings, stabbings, or other violent crimes that lead to a person’s death can be pursued through both criminal and civil courts.
  4. Supervised Activities: Negligence during school, daycare, or field trip activities, as well as incidents in assisted living or care programs, can trigger wrongful death claims.

How to Prove a Wrongful Death

Indeed, proving wrongful death claims can be a formidable challenge. The burden of proof necessitates establishing all four critical elements of wrongful death. If even one of these elements falls short, it could jeopardize the legal viability of your lawsuit. Successful claims demand unequivocal evidence supporting all four elements.

Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the burden of proof in civil court cases, such as wrongful death lawsuits, is comparatively less stringent than in criminal cases. Criminal trials require proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard that doesn’t apply to civil cases. In wrongful death claims, the plaintiff—i.e., the party initiating the lawsuit—bears the burden of proof, which entails presenting evidence demonstrating that their claims are more likely to be true than not.

The Four Pillars of a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Not every death circumstance qualifies for a wrongful death lawsuit. Legitimate wrongful death cases must substantiate four legal elements through compelling evidence. These elements consist of negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Negligence: The plaintiff is tasked with demonstrating that the defendant’s negligence directly caused the victim’s death. Negligence signifies the failure to act with reasonable care or adhere to established standards, leading to injury or death.

Breach of Duty: The defendant must have had a legal obligation to exercise care towards the victim. This duty of care implies acting in a manner consistent with rational judgment and is relevant to various scenarios, such as medical professionals making treatment decisions or drivers obeying traffic laws.

Causation: A wrongful death lawsuit hinges on proving that the defendant’s negligence played a significant role in the victim’s death. The plaintiff must establish a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the fatal outcome.

Damages: In a wrongful death case, it’s imperative to demonstrate that the death has resulted in quantifiable legal damages. Economic damages encompass concrete losses like medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost income. Non-economic damages encompass emotional and psychological losses.

Time Limitations and Settlements in Wrongful Death Claims

Comprehending the statute of limitations is pivotal when pursuing a wrongful death case. In California, eligible survivors have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. However, exceptions exist, such as when medical malpractice is involved or when the discovery rule applies, allowing the statute of limitations to begin when the death is known.

Settlements are a common resolution for wrongful death claims. While some cases proceed to court, many are resolved through settlements to avoid a lengthy trial process. If all four elements are proven successfully, the defendant’s insurance company may provide compensation to surviving family members.

Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Proving a wrongful death case demands skill, expertise, and unwavering determination. The attorneys at ANTN Law APC are here to support you during this challenging time. With a deep understanding of wrongful death claims, our team will work diligently to craft a compelling case that maximizes your compensation.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for a complimentary initial consultation. Our experienced attorneys are ready to help you seek justice and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.