A wrongful death case occurs when the loved ones of a person who has died file legal action to collect compensation on behalf of the decedent. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §377.60, wrongful death cases have a cause of action that is caused by a wrongful act or neglect of another. The victim dies due to these actions, creating a liability problem for the person who caused it.
Defining Wrongful Death
To establish a case as a wrongful death case, it must meet these three criteria:
- Negligence or intent: You must show that the person in question accidentally or intentionally caused harm that led to your loved one’s death.
- Actions caused the death: You must also prove the actions in question caused your loved one’s death.
- Damages: You must prove there are damages because of your loved one’s death. This could be the final expenses that you paid, or you can show a loss of income.
Once you can demonstrate all three of these criteria, then you have a viable case. The burden of proof is relatively high since it can be challenging to improve intent. However, your lawyer can help with this process and should be able to tell you if your case is viable or not.
Liability often depends on who is responsible for the situation and who can be held responsible for negligence. In most liability cases, your lawyer will need to prove negligence on the part of the person who caused the accident to establish liability for your expenses.
At first glance, it might seem challenging to do this since much of the evidence would rely on eyewitness testimony or security cameras and other devices to show what happened. These devices are more popular than ever, which might make it much easier to get credible video or audio evidence.
Your lawyer can get access to these things through simple legal processes so that the other party cannot hide or manipulate the evidence in their favor.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in California for wrongful death claims is two years per CCP §335.1. This means you have two years from the accident date or death to file legal action against the person or party responsible for your loved one’s death. This is the same time available in personal injury cases. If your loved one dies a few days or weeks after the accident, it is still the date of the accident that would kick off the statute of limitations period.
In general, it is a better idea to start the legal process for wrongful death claims as soon as possible. This can give you a better chance to properly document your losses, and it also gives your lawyer time to gather evidence related to your case. It can be more challenging to secure evidence the more time that passes between the accident and when you start the process. There is always the chance that witnesses could move, companies could declare bankruptcy, and video surveillance footage could be erased.
Your lawsuit can end in several ways. It can go to trial, or you can accept a settlement agreement. Accepting a settlement agreement lets you skip going to court but may reduce the compensation that you receive. Going to trial can get you more compensation, but it often takes much longer than accepting a settlement agreement. Discuss your options with your lawyer before deciding.
Seeking Financial Restitution
In a lawsuit, you can claim various types of compensation. Wrongful death claims usually focus on medical expenses and final expenses since they are the largest expenses that victims tend to have. There are other expenses as well, depending on the circumstances of the incident. For example, you can file claims for any of your loved one’s property that was damaged. This includes damage to close, watches, cellphones, purses, or any other items.
As you build your case, your lawyer will look for expenses you can claim in the lawsuit. You can help this process by documenting all your expenses. That way, your lawyer has more detailed records to work from when trying to make sure he or she files claims for every one of your applicable expenses. Doing so can minimize the chances of not receiving enough compensation to cover all your expenses.
Contact Us to Schedule a No-Risk Consultation
If you want to file a wrongful death case on behalf of your loved one, you might be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 223-5115 to schedule a no-risk consultation to discuss your potential case with a member of our team. There is no cost or commitment from the consultation. We are here to help you through these difficult times.