“Wrongful death” is the name the law gives to a death that resulted from another party’s negligence. If the negligence had resulted in an injury, it would be termed personal injury. If it results in death or conditions that lead to death, however, it is termed wrongful death. If your loved one has died from a car accident due to another driver’s carelessness or violation of traffic laws, for example, you may be able to bring a wrongful death suit.
Wrongful death cases also need to show that the other party, whether an individual or a business, knew or should have known that the actions or conditions that caused the death were dangerous and that they should have acted responsibly.
What types of evidence do you need to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Your wrongful death attorney will need certain pieces of evidence in order to obtain justice for you and your family. Evidence required by the court in wrongful death claims include:
A Death Certificate
Death certificates are official documents that contain the cause of death as determined by the coroner. If a slip and fall caused fatal injuries, these injuries will be noted on the death certificate.
If the wrongful death of your loved one was due to an accident or other circumstance in which the police were called, the police reports will be needed. Be sure to obtain and keep copies of any police report in connection with an accident or investigation as soon as possible.
Some causes of wrongful death may be found in medical records. If your loved one died as a result of being given the wrong medication in a hospital, for example, all medications would be noted as part of the medical records. Medical records can also help determine if notations in the records were falsified or removed, or changed at a later date.
If you believe that medical malpractice caused your loved one’s death, you need to request a full autopsy. Only this can indicate whether medical error was the cause. Surgical errors, for example, are indicated by a thorough examination of the body. If an error in medication, whether type or dosage, caused the death, a toxicology report will provide evidence.
Evidence of a Duty of Care Relationship Between Negligent Entity and Deceased Person
In order to bring a wrongful death suit, it must be shown that the negligent entity and your loved one had a relationship in which the former owed a duty of care to your loved one. A doctor is always to do no harm, for example; that is a doctor’s duty of care. All citizens need to drive safely; they have breached the responsibility if they’ve done otherwise.
In other cases, proving duty of care may be slightly more complicated. If your loved one’s car was hit by another vehicle, and that vehicle had a manufacturer’s defect that caused it to brake improperly, the duty of care might be owed by the manufacturer of the vehicle. Manufacturers must abide by safe practices in making and recalling products.
Tax Returns and Financial Records
Loss of financial support and loss of value of household services are among the financial damages that can be sought in a wrongful death case in California. Tax returns and other financial records are the best way for your attorney to estimate this loss. Other financial records, such as paystubs, will help the court determine the financial loss. Records of investments and their returns, especially if the deceased person handled all the investments, are also needed.
The documentation required for a wrongful death case is in part needed so that potential damages can be estimated. In California, one can receive damages awarded by the court for medical expenses related to the final illness or condition, loss of companionship and consortium for spouses, loss of training and guidance for children, funeral expenses, and burial expenses. Any and all records related to these should be gathered and given to your attorney. Loss of companionship and consortium can depend on length of the marriage, so a marriage certificate should be part of the documentation.
If you need a wrongful death lawyer
If you feel your loved one was the victim of wrongful death, call us today. The Salamati Law Firm is experienced in personal injury and wrongful death cases. We will review your case at no charge to you. Payment will come from any final jury award or settlement amount.
Additional wrongful death lawsuit resources
- Justia, California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), 3921. Wrongful Death (Death of an Adult), https://www.justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/3900/3921.html
- California Legislative Information, CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – CCP, ARTICLE 6. Wrongful Death [377.60 – 377.62] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=377.60.&lawCode=CCP