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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
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Losing a loved one is always difficult. It is even more upsetting when your family member died prematurely because of someone else’s negligent or wrongful conduct.

When this happens, you need a personal injury lawyer to prove the misconduct and seek damages while you grieve.

At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, our experienced wrongful death attorneys understand how delicate these types of cases can be.

Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

Elements of Wrongful Death Claims

California’s wrongful death statute provides a legal cause of action when:

  • Someone dies,
  • Another person’s wrongful act or neglect caused their death, and
  • The individual’s surviving family members suffered financial and emotional losses as a result.

The surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children must file a lawsuit within two years. If none of these individuals is still living, grandchildren may sue. Otherwise, the decedent’s heirs have a claim. 

Cause of Death

Wrongful death claims arise from a variety of circumstances.

Each requires the plaintiff to prove slightly different facts. But in each case, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions caused the death.

Negligence

When someone acts carelessly and kills another person, they may be liable for wrongful death. To prove negligence, the person filing the suit must show that the defendant had a duty to the deceased person and breached that duty.

For instance, we all have a responsibility to drive carefully and follow traffic laws. If a driver breaches this duty by running a stop light, speeding, or driving drunk, a court may find that they acted negligently. 

Doctors also owe a duty of care to their patients. When doctors are negligent, it is called medical malpractice. 

Intentional Acts

If a person acts with the intent to harm someone, even if they do not plan to kill them, they may be held responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Many such intentional acts—like assault, battery, and murder—are also crimes, and a prosecutor may file criminal charges.

However, the burden of proof in criminal cases is higher than in civil cases. Therefore, a jury may acquit someone of murder charges but still find them liable for wrongful death. 

Strict Liability

There are instances when the law holds a company or individual strictly liable regardless of their intent.

This is the case when a company sells a defective product, such as faulty brakes, or exposes workers to toxic materials, like asbestos, and the product causes someone’s untimely death.  

Damages

The plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit may seek financial compensation for the loss of:

  • The decedent’s financial support;
  • Services, training, and advice the loved one would have provided;
  • Society and companionship; and 
  • Funeral and burial expenses.

All of these losses are personal to the remaining family members.

In this way, a wrongful death case differs from a survival action, which allows the decedent’s estate to recover damages the decedent incurred by your loved one before their death. Examples include things like medical bills and lost wages.  

How Do I Prove the Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit?

The best way to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit is to hire an experienced attorney.

At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, we are dedicated to one-on-one service and will fight for the recovery you need. We never charge any legal fees unless we resolve your case. 

So, if you have lost a loved one and think your situation meets all of these wrongful death elements, contact one of our offices today.

We offer free consultations in Napa, Fairfield, Vallejo, Vacaville, Woodland, and Richmond, as well as by phone.

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