A wrongful death claim is a legal action brought in the event of a person’s death, which resulted from negligence or recklessness on the part of the defendant. It can be brought by a surviving family member, or even someone who used to be a life partner on a “civil union” basis. If a loved one dies of a natural cause, his or her family would have tremendous grief and loss to deal with. A wrongful death is even worse, because it brings home the fact that the death could have been avoided, if only the at-fault party had done their duty. In many cases, the bereaved are also deprived of primary financial support, because the decedent used to be a major provider.
Any family in such a situation has significant legal rights, one of them being the eligibility to pursue compensation from a supposed wrongdoer. If they have a competent wrongful death attorney representing them, and manage to prove the defendant’s fault, they would also be able to gain compensation for the losses caused by the latter’s transgression. This brings them justice and closure, so that they can finally move on.
Elements of the Lawsuit
In cases where a loved one’s death is caused by another person’s misconduct, one can end up losing the love and affection, physical support, financial support, etc. When claiming compensation in court, they would need to bear in mind that the court would examine the following elements of the wrongful death lawsuit.
- Did the defendant’s negligence or willfulness cause the passing, or did something else? This is called causation. If the defendant cannot be shown to have acted in a way, which irrefutably caused the death, then the case falls apart. For example, suppose a person dies of cancer; his or her family could not sue the hospital or doctor if they treated the patient according to established guideline. However, any caretaker who exposed the decedent to bad drugs, radiation, etc., could be proven legally responsible for their death. If they intended harm, the deed would be recognized as a wrongful act; if they were careless, it would fall under negligence. Either way, the wrongful death lawsuit would hinge on being able to prove their involvement in the act.
- Was the damage caused intentional or negligent? This has bearing on how kindly the jury looks on the defendant. While the outcome remains the same, it matters if the accused knew what they were doing at the time. For instance, shooting someone point blank is a blatantly willful act. If it ends the latter’s life, you get punished for it, and usually more heavily. A negligent act, in contrast, is one where the victim’s death is not pre-meditated. One example is rear-ending someone into cross-lane traffic and causing his or her death. Here, if proven guilty, the defendant would be charged with a “Reckless Act”, and punishment might be mitigated.
- Did the survivor(s) suffer a loss? This is important for the court to know, since a lot of families exist with estranged relations. A wrongful death claim needs to prove one or more of the following losses from the survivor’s side: love, physical support, and financial support. Loss of love covers begin deprived of affection, sexual gratification, or other things. Loss of financial support is more easily proven – the decedent may have earned and provided a substantial amount to the survivor before their death, or contributed to a fund of which the latter was a beneficiary, and this proverbial well has now dried up, owing to the defendant’s actions. Physical support falls under everything the decedent used to do for their survivor(s), who now have to do without it.
Under CA Law
In California, every would-be wrongful death plaintiff is required by the statute of limitations, to file their legal action inside a two-year time limit. The court would require evidence, which proves that the accused was negligent or reckless, and that their conduct caused the death in question. Any family member or legal partner left behind by the deceased can file a wrongful death claim in court. If the plaintiff is a minor, he or she can have it filed by a guardian or parent. The court would require proof of monetary damages.
Pursuing a Negligent Killing Claim
The main thing that needs to be done here is proving the elements mentioned above. A survivor must prove that they have suffered or will suffer a financial loss due to the decedent’s passing, such as funeral, medical, and burial costs. Lost supporting income and potential inheritance are major factors as well. On top of that, emotional losses including love and affection would need to be proven beyond doubt.