“Wrongful death” is a broad term that applies when a person has died due to someone else’s negligent or reckless actions. State statutes allow certain survivors to file a lawsuit.
At Salamati Law, we understand that no lawsuit or insurance settlement can bring back a loved one, but it can help with resulting financial hardships and also provide emotional closure. What follows are some of the issues that Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer Sean Salamati discusses with clients.
What qualifies as a wrongful death
Wrongful death can result from intentional or accidental injuries. Any time a person’s death is caused by someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongful act– their survivors may be entitled to file a wrongful death action. While this list is by no means complete, some of the more common types include:
- Medical malpractice
- Elder abuse
- Car accidents, including accidents involving a drunk driver
- Child abuse or neglect
- Slip and fall accidents
- Murder or manslaughter
With some exceptions, the defendants may be any person or parties whose breach of duty caused the fatal accident. These can be private individuals, businesses, or even governments. However, sometimes a potential defendant will be immune from liability. These are issues that attorneys consider when formulating a case strategy.
Who can sue for wrongful death
To begin with, the question of who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California must be addressed. State statutes list who is legally permitted to bring a claim. For example, only the following family members or their personal representatives qualify:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Children (or grandchildren if the children are deceased)
- Other minor dependents
- Anyone else who would inherit the decedent’s property under the state’s inheritance laws
No matter how many people are eligible, only one wrongful death action may be filed, and it will be subject to a strict statute of limitations. Speak with an attorney as early in the process as possible to protect your right to compensation.
What you need to prove
In a lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to prove each element of the claim. To prove a wrongful death claim in California, you must be able to produce evidence that the defendant owed the decedent a duty of care, that the defendant breached that duty through their action or inaction, and that the breach of that duty caused the death.
The duty is determined by the circumstances of the case. For example:
- If the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, you would need to prove that the medical professional did not meet the professional standard of care for the locale.
- In the case of a slip and fall, you need to prove that the landlord or another responsible party unreasonably failed to make the premises safe or to warn of the dangerous condition.
- When an intentional act caused the death, you must prove that the defendant intended to take the action– even if they did not intend the resulting injury– and that it caused the death.
Compensation for a wrongful death
A wrongful death settlement or verdict can relieve the financial burdens caused by the loss of a family member. Damages can include, but are not limited to:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost financial support that the decedent would have provided
- Compensation for the decedent’s lost care and companionship
In certain circumstances, the lawsuit may be combined with what is known as a “survival” action to compensate the decedent’s estate for the deceased’s injuries that ultimately lead to their death. These can include medical bills and property damage incurred in the time– whether weeks or mere minutes– between the wrongful act that caused the injury and their death.
State laws can expand or limit the compensation available. For example, some states place caps on judgments in some types of civil lawsuits, while others allow recovery for the decedent’s pain and suffering. Some, like California, only allow punitive damages to be awarded in survival actions. Choose a lawyer with experience in your jurisdiction so that the legal strategy is based on accurate information.
Consult with a professional
Pursuing a wrongful death claim can be long, complicated, and emotionally draining. The compassionate Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers at Salamati Law are here to guide you through it. We offer free consultations, and you never pay an upfront legal fee– we only get paid if we secure compensation on your behalf. Call today to discuss your case.