How to Win a Wrongful Death Case in California

scale of justice on table

December 15, 2016

Ellis Law Corporation

Personal Injury

The unfortunate and unexpected death of a family member can take not just an emotional toll on surviving family members, but a financial one as well if they are left without a provider.

California law recognizes this loss and permits survivors to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover for the loss. A personal injury lawyer can explain how negligence cases work and the effect state statutes have, which is the first step to winning a wrongful death lawsuit in California.

Wrongful death in California

A wrongful death lawsuit can be based on different legal theories but the most common is negligence. Very generally, this means the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to act or not act a certain way, that the defendant breached that duty, that the defendant’s breach caused death, and that the plaintiff suffered damages because of it. California laws determine who those plaintiffs may be, what types of duty the defendant owed, and what types of damages may be compensated.

Winning a wrongful death lawsuit takes an understanding of both the laws and the practical realities of proving a case. If you are faced with the unfortunate and preventable death of a loved one, these are some strategies for winning the compensation you need to get back on track.

5 legal strategies for winning a wrongful death case in CA

  1. Include all possible defendants. Wrongful death lawyers review a situation for potential liability by individuals or entities who may be overlooked by non-lawyers. This improves the chances that the jury will identify the party that it determines is at fault for the death rather than be left looking to an empty seat at the trial table. It also opens up additional avenues to collect on a judgment.
  2. Understand your goal. A wrongful death places a financial burden on the surviving family but that is rarely the sole motivation for filing a lawsuit. Rather, the heirs often want some sort of emotional closure and to see justice served. Understanding these motivations early on can prevent you from making detrimental decisions like turning down a favorable settlement offer in order to go to trial based on principle.
  3. Offer proof of each element, even if it just seems obvious. No matter how apparent it may seem that a party should be held responsible for an injury or wrongful death, the plaintiff simply cannot recover without offering evidence in support of each element of the cause of action.
  4. Know what is practically required in addition to what is legally required. For example, California does not require an autopsy before a lawsuit can be filed but there will be fewer hurdles if one is performed.
  5. Consider introducing a criminal conviction in the civil trial. A criminal conviction requires a greater degree certainty so if the defendant has been convicted of a crime that caused the death, this may be very persuasive when presented in the civil lawsuit.

Expert wrongful death representation in Los Angeles

Facing a wrongful death lawsuit alone is confusing, tedious and emotionally draining, but trusting the right personal injury lawyer can alleviate those burdens. The Ellis Law Firm has been down this road before and is dedicated to being the best personal injury firm in Southern California. Call today to set up a free consultation.

 Additional wrongful death resources:  

  1. Findlaw, California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60 (Wrongful Death),
  2. Judicial Council of California, 2015 Court Statistics Report,