Nothing can bring back the loss of a loved one. In times of preventable loss, there are steps that need to be taken for justice, and others need to be held accountable. Wrongful death occurs when someone dies or is killed due to the negligence or recklessness of another. When this happens the survivors of the victim may have cause for a wrongful death lawsuit. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to receive acknowledgment of wrongdoing, as well as financial compensation for such considerations as lost wages and emotional pain.Who can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Most states will advise that a surviving spouse, child, parent, or other immediate family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state lists a civil "wrongful death statute," which outlines the procedures for bringing wrongful death accountability.Wrongful Death Suits Post-Criminal Trials
Wrongful death lawsuits may occur after a criminal trial, using relevant evidence. However, these trials do not require as much evidence and do not need a unanimous jury for a verdict. Wrongful death lawsuits have also had success in retrying a criminal case upon a successful judgment.Proving Wrongful Death
To successfully demonstrate wrongful death, the plaintiff must show:
- The death of a person who was a close family member, as defined by the state’s guidelines
- The death of said person was caused by another individual or another party’s negligence
- The other party had intent to cause harm
- The surviving family members are suffering financially and emotionally as a result of the victim’s death
When determining pecuniary, or financial loss, the age, character, and condition of the victim, and their earning potential, are taken into account. This will require many calculations to accurately project the correct number for the victim’s lifetime earnings and future earning potential.Using Expert Testimony
Juries may not understand the correct calculation of factors such as loss of income, future earnings, and overall monetary value of another person’s life. An expert can assist in advising the best depiction of the victim’s capabilities.Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are awarded in instances of egregious or malicious wrongdoing to punish the other party. It can also be used to send a message to others participating in similar practices. For example, assume Bank A is found to be offering predatory loans, which are loans they know a borrower cannot pay back. The jury may use punitive damages as an example to other banks not to participate in this practice and deter them from engaging in similar conduct. However, in wrongful death suits, punitive damages are not easily awarded and will require expert legal knowledge to obtain. An attorney can advise you as to whether your state allows punitive damages and what steps you can take to obtain them.Wrongful Death Lawsuit Trends
In recent years cases have been brought forth in the Los Angeles area for various causes of wrongful deaths. Although every case is unique and no guarantees can be made for specific outcomes, sometimes reviewing past cases can help potential claimants assess their ability to bring forth their own case.
A mold case turned from potential personal injury to wrongful death when multiple patients died from lung infections. The fungal infections that these patients contracted as a result of their hospital stay led to their deaths. Although the hospital’s treatment was not the typical medical malpractice, the presence of mold in the building led to an outbreak of fungal infection in patients who would otherwise have recovered. Their procedures and recovery, which required post-surgical hospitalization, were complicated when the mold was introduced into their systems. The affected parties were organ transplant patients, and therefore particularly susceptible to such systemic infections as mold-induced fungal infections. The resulting wrongful death lawsuit saw an award of $1.35 million.
A patient treatment case was brought against a treatment center that used a product known for potentially toxic side effects. Through their use of a known lethal product, at least three patients died within a six year timespan. Award settlement for these wrongful death lawsuits ranged from $1.5 million all the way up to $125 million in compensatory and punitive damages.Frequently Asked Questions
Who has Legal Cause for a Wrongful Death Case?
California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 377.60, allows for the following family members to sue for wrongful death: spouses, domestic partners, children, grandchildren, other parties entitled to the deceased’s estate.
How do I Know if There’s Enough Cause for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Any death that occurred under circumstances where the other party was negligent or reckless or engaged in an intentionally wrong act can fall under wrongful death legislation. Such instances may include: pedestrian accidents, vehicle accidents, assault and battery, child abuse, elder abuse, murder, manslaughter, medical malpractice, and others. Seeking a consultation is the best way to know for sure if you have a case.
How are Damages Calculated in a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death lawsuits include some very complicated calculations. Factors such as life expectancy, earning potential, funeral expenses, and more go into determining the damages awarded.
Are Punitive Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases?
Yes and No. Heirs to the deceased’s estate are not able to recover punitive damages. The exception to this law comes when filing for “survival action,” which means filing a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate. “Survival action” is often filed along with wrongful death lawsuits.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The California statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the date of the death.
How Long do I Have to File a Survival Action Lawsuit?
Similar to the wrongful death lawsuit statute of limitations, a party has two years to file for a survival action lawsuit. However, the beginning date for a survival action case is either the date of injury or six months after death, whichever came last.Considerations When Hiring a Wrongful Death Lawyer
Most insurance companies and corporations will want to avoid a jury and will push to settle out of court. There are many reasons for this, with it often coming down to money. Because of the expenses of litigation, lawyers want to work out a settlement deal to prevent an expensive trial. However, their urgency to settle out of court can also mean a less than fair offer. An experienced attorney knows how to guide you towards the settlement you deserve.How an Attorney can Help You
We advocate for our clients to get the best settlement possible. At Bridgewater Law Group, we know many of the strategies used by insurance companies and corporations, and we know how to counter them. Let our attorneys represent your case. We know when a justified settlement has come through for you and your loved ones, and when there is more to be won. We will fight for the best outcome for you, your family, and your case.No Fee Unless We Win
Your win is our win, and we will not settle for anything else. We will work on a contingency basis, which means there is no cost to you. Give us a call today for a free consultation.