Is Wrongful Death a Civil Suit?

As the dust settles in the aftermath of a tragic loss of life, attention often turns to the legal system to see what will happen next. The government may pursue criminal charges against the person or entity responsible for the death, but wrongful death is a civil suit. Notably, whether or not criminal charges are brought against the perpetrator does not in itself impact the validity of a wrongful death lawsuit.  

What is the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit? 

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by close relatives of the victim, often with the counsel of a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer, and the burden of proof is much lower than you might expect. In civil lawsuits, the burden of proof is that the jury must find by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is liable. What this amounts to is that wrongful death lawyers must convince the jury that it is only more likely than not that the defendant is liable. This just means that it is at least 51% likely that the defendant is liable.  

Accidents that may give rise to wrongful death claims 

A wrongful death claim may be filed whenever a victim dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. As you might imagine, there are many different accidents that may give rise to a wrongful death claim, including the following:[Text Wrapping Break] 

  • Defective products 
  • Animal attacks 
  • Car, truck, bus, or motorcycle accidents 
  • Airplane and helicopter crashes 
  • Slip and fall cases  
  • Medical malpractice 
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect 
  • Construction accidents 
  • Premises liability 
  • Fires 

How long do you have to file your lawsuit? 

In general, the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in California is two years from the date that the victim dies, but this can become highly complicated, and that is one reason why hiring the right wrongful death attorney can make a difference in your case. Some wrongful death claims feature accidents where the victim dies at the scene, whereas in other cases, a period of time passes before the victim ultimately dies. That is why the statute of limitations does not begin to toll until the date of death.  

As you might expect, there are exceptions to this rule. One such exception is the “discovery rule,” which comes into play in cases where the cause of the death is not known at the time of death, but is later discovered. In these cases, the statute of limitations does not begin to toll until the cause of death is discovered.  

In accidents where the wrongdoer is a government employee or entity, you only have six months from the date of the death in which to file a claim with that entity. What usually happens next is that, within 45 days, the public entity will deny the claim, and then the victim’s close relatives will have another six months in which to file a wrongful death lawsuit.  

If a minor is the only plaintiff of a wrongful death claim and is suing for the death of a parent, then the two-year statute of limitations does not begin to toll until that minor turns 18.  

You need the right law firm on your side 

With so much at stake emotionally and financially for your family, we strongly recommend that you hire an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer to handle your wrongful death lawsuit. The insurance company on the other side will be doing everything possible to minimize the amount that you recover, and you can easily cost yourself millions of dollars if you attempt to handle it yourself. Instead, the best option is to hire a qualified attorney that has gone head-to-head with insurance companies in wrongful death lawsuits for years. 

Results matter to you and they matter to us 

Here at Ellis Injury Law, our clients come first, and the proof is in the numbers. We have recovered over $350 Million in settlements and jury verdicts on behalf of our clients over the last 25+ years.  

Schedule your free consultation today 

If you have questions about a wrongful death lawsuit, give us a call 24 hours a day to schedule your zero-cost consultation. You will not receive a bill from Ellis Injury Law unless you win.