Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit in California
In 2022, California recorded nearly 4,100 motor vehicle fatalities. While this represents a slight decrease from 2021, deaths from car accidents still remain a huge problem. Speeding and drunk drivers can tear families apart from their recklessness. If you lost a loved one in a tragic car accident, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, your chances of winning a wrongful death suit will depend upon the expertise of a wrongful death attorney, the evidence provided, liability, and more. Continue reading to learn more about wrongful death lawsuits in California.
Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death is a civil case wherein a person dies due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another person or entity (such as a business). Negligence is the basis of most wrongful death claims, which can include fatal motor vehicle accidents, product liability, and medical malpractice.
The surviving family members of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim to recover losses they suffered as a result of the death of their loved one. A wrongful death suit is separate from a criminal case, but may be filed simultaneously. The standard of proof is much lower in a civil case than a criminal case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Each state has its own wrongful death statute which dictates who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In California, the following people may seek compensation:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The decedent’s surviving children or grandchildren
- The decedent’s parents or children
- The decedent’s putative spouse or children of the putative spouse
- A financial dependent of the decedent
- Next of kin if none of the above relatives are available
- A personal representative of the deceased’s estate
As per California’s statute of limitations, a wrongful death suit must be filed within two years of your family member’s death. After this deadline passes, you will lose the right to seek compensation through a wrongful death suit.
How to Prove a Wrongful Death Suit
If you can prove the defendant was negligent and caused your loved one’s death, then your chances of winning a wrongful death suit are very high. However, proving wrongful death can be very challenging, especially when fault is not immediately apparent. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you prove the following elements of negligence needed to win a wrongful death case:
1. Duty of Care
Simply put, duty of care means taking reasonable care to protect other’s safety and well-being. This applies to all U.S. citizens, whether it be a business owner or individual. For example, a driver has a duty of care to obey traffic laws and operate their vehicle in a safe manner.
A breach of the duty of care is the failure to act in a reasonable or prudent manner, also known as negligence. For example, a driver may breach his or her duty to other road users by texting while driving. If a driver’s brakes failed and caused the accident, this would not be considered a breach because the accident was out of their control.
The plaintiff (the person suing) must be able to prove that the accident directly caused their loved one’s death. Causation basically means there has to be a connection to the defendant’s negligent actions and the victim’s death.
In order to file a valid wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must show that they suffered financial losses as a result of their loved one’s death. If a husband and father was killed in an accident, then his wife and children would be entitled to the loss of income and support.
Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Claim
There are two types of damages awarded in wrongful death cases: economic and non-economic damages. These damages are dependent on several factors, including the plaintiff’s relationship to the deceased and the extent of their losses.
These are the direct financial losses that the victim’s death caused, including:
- Medical expenses incurred from the injury or illness that caused the death
- Loss of financial support from the deceased
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of household services
- Funeral and burial expenses
These are intangible losses that do not have a specific dollar amount, but can include:
- Loss of care, companionship, comfort, love, affection, guidance, society, and moral support
The only way to recover punitive damages is through a survival action, which can be filed in conjunction with a wrongful death suit. A survival action is meant to compensation surviving family members for medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. These are damages most common in a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact a Winning Wrongful Death Attorney
A sudden and unexpected death in the family is an awful thing to experience. If your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence, The Law Offices of Daniel Kim will ensure you get the justice and financial compensation you deserve. Your chances of winning a wrongful death suit will be much higher with an experienced lawyer on your side. Our attorneys work on a strict contingency fee arrangement, meaning that we do not collect any legal fees unless we win your case.
If you want to discuss your wrongful death case and learn how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation. You can call us at 800-719-9779 or fill out the online form on our website. Don’t delay, schedule your free consultation now and let us fight for your rights.