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Elements and Proof of Negligence in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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. 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. To prove negligence, a plaintiff does not need to show that the defendant intended to harm the decedent. Rather, a plaintiff must merely show that:

  • The defendant owed the decedent a duty of care
  • The defendant breached that duty
  • The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s breach

Similarly, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case must prove that the defendant is at fault for the decedent’s death. They may do so by either showing that the defendant’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 defendant’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 a preponderance of the evidence.

Damages for Wrongful Death

Under California law, the following survivors of a decedent may bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children
  • 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.

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.

LA 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 an LA 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.

Posted on February 10, 2020josegramajo
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