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How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

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Unintentional injuries are the fourth most common cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 200,000 victims suffering from fatal accidents in 2020. Under some circumstances, the fault of an unintentional death can fall on a specific individual or entity. In these cases, it is possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you’ve lost a loved one due to the intentional or negligent acts of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Here is what you need to know about filing a wrongful death lawsuit.


What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Suing for wrongful death is a type of lawsuit surviving family members can file when their loved one dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another party. A wrongful death claim can be filed when another person caused the death. The purpose of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is to be compensated for damages following their loss.

“Compensation” can account for lost wages for the household, the loss of companionship, or pain and suffering. Wrongful death compensation can also cover funeral expenses and burial costs.

There are also specific laws regarding when someone can file a wrongful death lawsuit, and those laws vary from state to state. In California, per the Code of Civil Procedure, claimants can recover damages within two years from the date of death.


When Does Wrongful Death Apply?

Wrongful deaths stem from personal injury claims. Almost all types of personal injury situations can turn into wrongful death claims if the fatality resulted from the negligence of the defendant. Negligence is a specific legal terminology.

There are many different wrongful death situations where the victim’s family can claim the negligence of another person is the cause of death. The most common type of negligence-related wrongful death lawsuit in California is car accidents.

Cases resulting in wrongful death accidents often include motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and commercial trucking accidents. Ridesharing accidents involving Uber and Lyft also commonly occur due to negligent actions.


How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?


Proving wrongful death requires a similar burden of proof as a personal injury situation. In a personal injury case, you’d need to prove that the actions of another contributed to the person’s injury. In a wrongful death lawsuit, you have to prove that the actions of another caused the victim’s death.

Proving wrongful death involves four different elements: negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages.


You need to prove that your loved one died as the result (either in whole or in part) of the negligent actions of another person. For example, in a car accident, you would need to prove that the other driver caused the accident that resulted in the death of the victim.

Breach of Duty

In order to prove negligence, you also have to prove that the defendant owed some form of duty to the victim. Drivers have a duty to one another. They have the duty to drive safely. They also have the duty to follow and obey the laws of traffic. You need to prove that the driver of the other vehicle had a duty to the victim and that their negligent actions breached that duty.


Just like negligence is related to breach of duty, breach of duty depends on causation. In order to prove that the duty the defendant had toward the victim was breached, you will also need to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s death.


The final element of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is proving damages related to the death of the victim. These damages need to be quantifiable. They might include medical expenses, funeral costs, or loss of income.

Damages can also include loss of potential earnings, burial costs, and the victim’s pain and suffering. For children and spouses of the deceased, loss of protection, guidance, or inheritance might apply. Without an experienced wrongful death lawyer, proving wrongful death can be a challenge. Hiring a lawyer can help.


Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Most often, it is a survivor of the deceased victim who files a wrongful death lawsuit. The most effective way to accomplish this is through the help of a wrongful death attorney. The survivor who files the wrongful death lawsuit is commonly the spouse, child, or parents of the victim. It is legal in all states for spouses to bring a wrongful death action on the behalf of a deceased spouse.

Likewise, parents of minor children and minor children of parents can collect compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit in all states.

Compensation in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, know that you can be compensated for different types of damages, such as:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Loss of income
  • Emotional damages
  • Loss of companionship


How to Find a Wrongful Death Lawyer

The first step the family of a wrongful death victim usually takes is to hire a lawyer. A wrongful death attorney files the lawsuit on your behalf.

The right wrongful death attorney will have a lot of experience working in the field. The longer the lawyer has been working in law, the more expertise they’ll have in navigating the legal system. They’ll also have encountered a wider variety of cases, making it more likely they’ve handled a case like yours.

To find a wrongful death lawyer, search “wrongful death lawyer near me” in a search engine like Google. You can also confirm if an attorney is licensed to practice in your state or if that lawyer has had to undergo any disciplinary actions through the local California state bar website.

If an attorney appears to be a good match, visit the website. Look for their services or practice areas and make sure they specialize in wrongful death cases. If you have any questions about a lawyer’s services, contact their office.

After you’ve compiled a list of potential lawyers, read reviews from former clients. Doing so will give you an idea of how the lawyer works and what you can expect. Then, schedule a consultation with the potential lawyer. This gives both you and the lawyer the opportunity to ask questions.


Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer


If you’ve lost a loved one due to the intentional or negligent acts of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. The right attorney can help you file a wrongful death lawsuit and gather the evidence to win your case. The Law Offices of Daniel Kim specialize in auto accidents that led to wrongful death. Schedule a free consultation with experienced wrongful death lawyer, Daniel Kim, today.

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