When a loved one dies, it is, of course, a stressful time for family and friends. However, this terrible event is made worse when the person’s death was caused by negligence or an intentional act of others. When this is the case, those responsible need to be held accountable for their actions.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is for the family of the deceased to file a wrongful death lawsuit against those who are considered to be legally liable for the person’s death. However, since laws regarding these lawsuits often vary from state to state, it is vital to work with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who handles these cases on a regular basis. If you and your family have suffered the loss of a loved one and are considering filing a wrongful death claim, here are some important details about these cases, as well as how a wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles can be of assistance.
When Are These Claims Applicable?
Since wrongful death can occur due to many different situations, it is important to know when filing one of these claims through a wrongful death attorney is your best option. In most cases, families are advised to file a wrongful death lawsuit when they would have otherwise been able to file a personal injury lawsuit had the person not been killed. Some of the most common situations where these lawsuits are filed include:
- When a person is intentionally killed by the defendant
- The person died due to issues associated with medical malpractice
- The person died in an auto accident due to the negligence of others
While these are the most common situations involving wrongful death lawsuits, they are by no means the only ones. In fact, virtually any type of personal injury situation that results in a person’s death can often be turned into a wrongful death claim. The major exception to this rule usually works injuries that result in death, which are handled primarily through workers’ compensation. However, even in these situations, should extreme negligence be present, it is sometimes possible to file a lawsuit in addition to the workers’ compensation claim.
What Must be Proven in Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, the victim’s family must be able to show the defendant was directly responsible for the death of their loved one. Thus, when negligence is given as the reason for the person’s death, the burden of proof involves four main points, which are:
- Defendant owed victim a duty of care
- The defendant breached the duty of care
- The breach of duty by the defendant was the direct cause of the victim’s death
- Victim’s death led to the damages plaintiffs are attempting to recover
As an example, we can examine a medical malpractice claim. By visiting a doctor, it is thus established the doctor owed the victim a reasonable duty of care. However, should the doctor fail to properly diagnose the patient’s condition or offer proper treatment for a condition, this can be viewed as a breach of the duty of care. Next, if the victim died due to the misdiagnosis, lack of treatment, or other negligence from the doctor or another healthcare professional, it may be shown the breach of duty was the direct cause of the person’s death. Finally, by the victim dying and the family is left with medical bills, funeral costs, loss of income, and other damages, it can be shown the death did in fact lead to the damages the lawsuit is attempting to recover.
Who is Allowed to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When you believe you may have the basis to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it is always best to first schedule a consultation with a wrongful death attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers. By doing so, you will be able to discuss your situation in greater detail and be given an objective assessment of whether or not you have a valid case. In any situation where a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, it is done so by a representative of the victim’s estate on behalf of the survivors who had a relationship with the victim. However, states tend to differ on who can be considered a valid survivor in these cases.
While in all states spouses can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their deceased spouse, it is also allowed that parents can be compensated for the death of their minor children and that minors can gain compensation should their parents die due to the negligence of others. However, states differ on whether parents can sue for the wrongful death of their adult children or vice versa. Also, there are differences involving whether grown siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents are allowed to sue in these situations. Based on most wrongful death law, the more distant the familial relationship, the less likely it will be a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed.
Is Marriage a Requirement in These Cases?
While many people automatically assume marriage is a requirement in filing a wrongful death claim, that is not always the case. In various states, the deceased victim’s romantic partner may be allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit, so long as they are able to show they were financially dependent upon the victim at the time of the person’s death. However, since these particular types of claims can be very complex and sometimes result in objections from family members, it is always best to consult with a wrongful death lawyer in these situations.
What Damages can be Recovered in These Cases?
Once a wrongful death lawsuit is filed by a family or others, there are various damages they can seek to recover. One of the most common is known as the “survival claim,” which is compensation the family seeks for the deceased person’s pain and suffering prior to their death. Along with this, expenses related to the victim’s medical treatment prior to their death are also sought by the plaintiffs, since these expenses can be quite high. Along with these, some of the most common damages sought in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of income from the deceased person
- Loss of any potential inheritance due to a person’s death
- Loss of care, nurturing, and guidance deceased would have provided
- Loss of love and companionship from the deceased
- Loss of consortium (sexual relations) with the deceased
- Value of services deceased victim would have provided
Since there are so many different types of damages that may be sought in these complex cases, always make sure you consult with a reputable wrongful death attorney from West Coast Trial Lawyers. By doing so, you will be sure to have the opportunity to gain all forms of compensation to which you are entitled.
Since it is only natural emotions will be running high upon the unexpected death of a loved one, always make sure you work with a legal professional who will put the interests of you and your family first when handling your case. Not only will this provide peace of mind, but also give you the chance to obtain maximum compensation. If you need the services of a qualified wrongful death lawyer, contact West Coast Trial Lawyers immediately for a consultation.