Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
“Wrongful death” refers to a fatality caused by another person’s negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct. In San Diego and the rest of California, the wrongful death claim is often filed by members of the deceased person’s family who are impacted by that loss. Depending on the case, these eligible family members may include a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, or other relative of the deceased. Occasionally the claim is filed by a personal representative of the deceased’s estate. As there are technical aspects to these claims, it’s important to consult with an experienced legal professional.
To prevail in a wrongful death claim, the following elements must be proven:
- The death was caused by another person’s negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct.
- The family member or claimant has suffered, or will suffer, financial loss or other recoverable damages as a result of the death.
If the death resulted from an accident, claimants in a wrongful death case must prove the elements of negligence in addition to the wrongful death elements specified above, the elements of negligence include the following:
- Duty of Care: It must be proven that the party at fault owed the victim a legally recognized duty of care.
- Breach of that Duty: It must be proven that the party at fault breached their duty of care in some way. Some examples of breaches include disobeying traffic laws, failing to utilize reasonable safety measures, and failing to provide adequate training to employees.
- Causation: It must be proven that the death resulted from the breach of the duty of care and not some other cause.
- Damages: It must be proven that the claimant suffered damages as a result of the wrongful death. These damages may include funeral and burial expenses; loss of future income; loss of financial support; loss of household services; and the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support.