The death of a loved one is always a tragedy. However, it is even more tragic when that death could have been avoided. Wrongful death is a civil action where someone died due to the negligence of another. Wrongful death is a claim under tort law filed by personal injury lawyers and arises out of negligence claims.
Various acts of negligence (i.e. actions or omissions) may give rise to a wrongful death claim. Examples include:
- A semi-truck driver negligently hits another vehicle causing the death of its driver or a passenger.
- A property owner fails to erect a fence around their pool and a child falls in and drowns.
- A doctor fails to read a patient’s drug allergy list and injects medicine into an unconscious patient during surgery, causing heart failure.
- An employer does not provide adequate safety precautions at the work site and an employee suffers a life ending head trauma.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits & Potential Criminal Proceedings
While criminal charges and convictions sometimes precede a wrongful death claim, criminal convictions are not necessarily required, nor do all wrongful death cases involve a criminal component. As a general matter, in order for a family member to prevail on a wrongful death claim, they must establish four basic elements.
- The deceased’s death was caused by the other party, at least in part;
- The deceased’s death occurred as a direct result of the other party’s negligence;
- The deceased’s death has affected you (or other surviving family members) and you qualify to receive compensation (based on your state statute and circumstances);
- The deceased’s death resulted in damages.
Complexities of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Though these elements seem straightforward, there are many issues that may arise out of each element, requiring the services of one of our Orange County wrongful death attorneys. There may be intervening causes to the death so that the offending party (or their insurance provider) could argue that the other party did not cause the death. If there are multiple parties at fault, then there may be an issue of apportioning the fault to each party. There may also be a question as to whether the death is due to the negligence of the other party, rather than from unforeseeable circumstances. There may also be issues regarding who has standing to bring a wrongful death suit, meaning, who has the right to bring the suit.
There are often competing interests in wrongful death suits and determining who should be the beneficiary of the suit can difficult without help from personal injury attorneys. Moreover, the question of whether a death results in damages and the amount of damages is a critical issue at stake. Insurance companies will value to life of a child different than the life of an adult, the life of someone on disability versus a working professional, the life of a mother with a young child differently than a retired grandfather. The damages caused by the death of a loved one are much more than economic; they represent the loss of a caregiver, a provider, or a companion. However, an insurance company will attempt to boil the value of your loved one down to years expected earned income and will devalue the human element.
Because any one of these issues may prevent you from receiving fair compensation for injuries sustained because of another's negligence, you should consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney to assist with your claim. If you or someone you love died due to another's negligence and you need help, please contact us for a free consultation.