Determining Liability in California Wrongful Death Cases
When someone loses their life due to the negligent behavior of another individual, their family is left to pick up the pieces. In California, wrongful death lawsuits are a legal means for grieving family members to hold the responsible person accountable. However, proving liability in such cases can be far from simple. This comprehensive post reviews the essential components of proving liability in a wrongful death case.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought by surviving family members against the individual or entities considered responsible for the death. Examples can include the deceased individual’s spouse, partner, and children.
Common types of wrongful death lawsuits can include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Acts of violence
- Medical malpractice
- And more
While no amount of money can replace a loved one, successful lawsuits can provide financial relief and some level of closure.
4 Elements of Proving Liability in Wrongful Death Cases
Four critical elements are necessary to establish liability in a wrongful death lawsuit. The plaintiff (the family of the deceased or their representative) must prove each element to succeed in the case.
First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant acted negligently or unlawfully. Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in harm to others. A person’s actions or lack of action can be considered negligent. Examples include a driver who causes a fatal accident through speeding, intoxication, or a manufacturer who creates a hazardous product.
2. Breach of Duty
Next, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed a specific duty to the deceased and breached that duty. A breach of duty is the responsibility to behave rationally as others would in similar situations.
For example, drivers have a responsibility to obey traffic laws, and a healthcare provider has a duty to provide proper patient care. Showing that the defendant engaged in conduct contrary to their obligation is critical to proving liability.
The third element is causation. The plaintiff must clearly connect the defendant’s negligent actions to the deceased’s death. The plaintiff must demonstrate that the death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence or misconduct.
Lastly, the plaintiff must show the economic and non-economic damages suffered as a result of the wrongful death. This includes expenses such as medical costs, funeral expenses, loss of income, emotional distress, and more. These damages provide a basis for compensation.
California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
In California, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of death. If the claim is not filed within this time frame, the court may dismiss the case, preventing the plaintiff from seeking compensation.
However, limitations can be longer or shorter depending on certain cases. As such, it is important that you work with an attorney who can help you identify how long you have to file.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful death cases can be some of the most difficult and emotionally demanding cases to handle. Determining liability in these cases often requires a complex and nuanced understanding of the law. For grieving families, having the guidance and support of an experienced wrongful death attorney can make all the difference in seeking a favorable outcome.
At Accident Attorneys, we have the knowledge and tools necessary to help families navigate this challenging process. Our legal professionals have over 75 years of combined experience and are dedicated to fighting for the rights of victims and their families.
If you are facing a wrongful death case, don't hesitate to reach out to us for help and support. Call (661) 261-4929 or fill out our form online to get started.