What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim that arises when a victim dies due to the fault of another person or entity. Surviving relatives of the victim may bring the claim against a defendant that acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. In California, wrongful death claims are specified in Code of Civil Procedure 377.60: “A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” 

Common examples of wrongful death claims 

As you can imagine, there are a number of different possible causes of death that could give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of the more common causes include the following: 

All of these involve tragic and unexpected deaths that can leave the innocent victim’s surviving relatives reeling both emotionally and financially for years or even decades. Notably, all of these accidents could give rise to a personal injury claim whether or not the victim died as a result. The fact that the victim died does not impact whether or not the defendant is liable, but it does impact the amount and type of damages that the defendant may owe. While no one can ever bring your cherished loved one back, hiring the right Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can help you and your family achieve some measure of justice for this tragedy.  

Damages available in wrongful death lawsuits 

Part of holding the wrongdoer liable and accountable for his or her actions is to ensure that the surviving relatives of the deceased victim receive financial compensation for the damages they have already incurred and will incur in the future. Some of those damages that wrongful death lawyers may pursue include the following:  

  • The future financial support that the deceased victim would have provided for the surviving relatives in the future; 
  • Gifts or expected benefits that the heirs could have reasonably expected to receive from the victim if he or she had been alive; 
  • Burial and funeral expenses; 
  • Loss of the victim’s expected income; 
  • Medical costs that the deceased incurred before dying; 
  • Any inheritance that the heirs lost due to the victim’s death; 
  • Loss of companionship, support, and love; 
  • Loss of consortium; 

What the plaintiff needs to prove 

Defendants in wrongful death lawsuits will do everything possible to minimize the amount they pay in a settlement (if they pay anything at all). In order to hold the defendant liable in a wrongful death claim and therefore recover financially, the plaintiff needs to clear the same legal hurdles that would have existed in a personal injury lawsuit where the deceased survived. If the plaintiff is claiming negligence on the part of the defendant, then the following elements must be met: 

  • The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased victim 
  • The defendant breached – or failed to live up to – this duty 
  • This breach was the direct and proximate cause of the victim’s death 
  • The victim’s death resulted in the damages that the plaintiff is seeking 

These cases can be complicated 

A qualified wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the often-complex process of bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. Knowing who to include as plaintiffs, how to preserve and gather key evidence, how to prove that the defendant committed a wrongful act, and how to maximize your financial recovery is not easy to do. Frankly, not every Los Angeles personal injury lawyer is up to the task.  

A track record of prevailing 

At Ellis Injury Law, our attorneys earned a $3 Million jury verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit in favor of the family of a Victorville man who was tragically killed in a truck accident with an 18-wheeler. The driver of the truck had fallen asleep at the wheel after having driven too long without taking a break under the Department of Transportation rules.  

Set up a free consultation today 

Our phone lines are always available, so call us at any time to schedule a free consultation. You can also take comfort in knowing that we never charge our clients any fees unless they prevail.