You can never be fully prepared for the death of a loved one, especially when it is unexpected. The emotional devastation is often made worse when your loss was caused by another person’s or entity’s negligence. California law provides that a surviving family member can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages in civil court.
What is a “wrongful death?”
The term “wrongful death lawsuit” is used to describe a type of California civil lawsuit that can be filed by the surviving family members of a person who was killed as a result of a negligent or wrongful act of another. In some cases, criminal charges may also be brought due to the wrongful behavior. If this occurs, the civil and criminal cases will each proceed separately from each other. It is important to understand, however, that criminal charges are not required in order to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. There are certain types of reckless or negligent conduct that results in a death that is enough for civil liability, even if there is no proven criminal liability.
What is required to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The law requires certain elements to be proven for you to be successful in a wrongful death claim. In California, those elements are as follows:
- The loss of human life;
- That was caused by another party’s negligence, or with the intent to cause harm; and
- The surviving family members have suffered financial loss resulting from the death.
The first element, the loss of human life, can be caused by a wide variety of acts. Any form of accident, such as a traffic accident, use of defective products, medical malpractice or any other type of fatal accident, can result in wrongful death. Additionally, intentional harmful acts such as deadly assault, murder or arson can also be the basis for a wrongful death claim.
Proving that the negligent or intentional act caused your loved one’s death is often the most crucial element in a wrongful death claim. If your loved one died of natural causes, there is no liability for wrongful death. For instance, if your loved one died from lung cancer, you cannot sue the physician for wrongful death. However, if lung cancer was caused by prolonged exposure at his workplace to chemicals that cause lung cancer, then you may be able to sue the employer for wrongful death. Due to the difficulty in proving causation, it is imperative that you work with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
The final element, proving that the surviving family members have suffered losses resulting from the loved one’s death, is often more difficult than it may seem. The loss of financial support, household contributions, medical expenses, and funeral expenses are usually quantifiable. However, your losses are not only financial. You have also lost your loved one’s affection and emotional support. These types of losses can be difficult to calculate, so it is important to have a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney assist you and ensure that you obtain the just compensation you are entitled to receive.
Schedule an appointment with the Law Office of Alex Cha & Associates today to learn about your rights or your family’s rights. Let us answer your questions and help you understand what damages you may be entitled to recover.