When a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, the family members of the decedent may sue the negligent party in a wrongful death lawsuit for the tragic loss. To successfully recover compensation for damages, including medical bills and loss of income, survivors must establish the legal elements of wrongful death.
Survivors of those who died due to someone else’s fault may be entitled to compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of that person’s death. Various circumstances surrounding a death may warrant wrongful death damages, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and exposure to occupational hazards.
These types of claims are typically premised on the legal theory of negligence. In order to prove the death was negligent, a plaintiff does not need to show that the liable party intended to harm the decedent. Rather, a plaintiff must merely show that:
- The liable party owed the decedent a duty of care
- The liable party breached that duty in some manner
- The breach led to the incident and injuries that caused the death; and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s breach
Similarly, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case must prove that the liable party is at fault for the decedent’s death. They may do so by either showing that the party’s actions were intentional or by establishing the elements of negligence. Wrongful death plaintiffs must also establish that the decedent died as a result of the liable party’s breach.
Civil Burden of Proof
The burden of proof in a wrongful death case is lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal law. Wrongful death claims are civil suits, the main purpose of which is to compensate victims rather than to punish offenders. Therefore, a plaintiff in a wrongful death case may meet their burden of proof by establishing the elements of negligence by something called the “preponderance of the evidence”.
Damages for Wrongful Death
Under California law, the following survivors of a decedent may bring a wrongful death claim:
- Domestic partner
- Anyone who would be entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession, such as siblings who are alive at the time of the decedent’s death
Others may be able to bring a wrongful death suit if they can show that they were financially dependent upon the decedent. These parties include the decedent’s putative spouse, children of their putative spouse, stepchildren, and parents.
Once it is established that the death of your loved one was caused by the negligent or wrongful act of another, evidence of the damages you have suffered must be shown. Damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate both the estate and surviving family members for the economic and non-economic losses they suffered as a result of the death. Recoverable losses typically include medical expenses, lost income, funeral and burial expenses, the value of household services, loss of love, community, attention, affection, moral support, and guidance, and loss of anticipated financial support.
Establishing a case for wrongful death is both emotionally difficult on the decedents family members and depends upon the significant expertise of counsel. The aid and support of an experienced attorney is invaluable.
Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP Provide Compassionate Legal Representation
If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, contact a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP. We know what it takes to file a successful wrongful death claim and can help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled. Our experienced attorneys serve clients throughout California from our offices in Los Angeles and San Diego. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 833-ACTS-LAW.