How Is a Wrongful Death Proven?

July 31, 2022 Posted In Wrongful Death

When an individual is killed in a preventable accident due to the negligence of another party, it is generally considered a wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit allows surviving family members to recover compensation and hold the at-fault party accountable. However, not all deaths qualify as wrongful. 

How a wrongful death is proven in san bernardino

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

The following elements determine whether a death qualifies as a wrongful death:

  • A human being died;
  • The victim was killed intentionally or due to the negligence of another party;
  • Surviving family members of the deceased suffered financial losses due to the death. (e.g., medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, loss of expected income, loss of services and companionship, etc.)

Wrongful death occurs when an at-fault party fails to provide the expected level of care to prevent harm to another. Many situations can give rise to a wrongful death claim, such as car accidents, workplace accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, criminal acts of violence, etc.  

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

To claim compensation in a California wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate or surviving family members must prove the following:

  • Duty of Care: The defendant (at-fault party) owed the deceased a duty of care—for example, in a car accident wrongful death case, the at-fault driver owed a duty to the victim to drive safely and obey traffic laws.
  • Breach of Duty: The defendant party violated their duty by failing to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would have shown in a similar situation—for example, a driver who speeds through a school zone or is texting while driving.
  • Causation: The at-fault party’s breach of their duty of care directly caused the individual’s death. In other words, your loved one would not have been killed if not for the defendant’s breach of duty. 
  • Damages: The surviving family suffered losses as a result of their loved one’s death.

If successful, loved ones can be compensated for medical expenses incurred due to the accident that caused the victim’s death, funeral and burial expenses, loss of the deceased’s income, loss of care, guidance, love, companionship, and more. In some cases, the family may also be able to claim compensation for the deceased’s conscious pain and suffering.

Evidence of Wrongful Death

Holding a party accountable for a wrongful death will require solid evidence and documentation to support the allegation. Success often hinges on hiring a San Bernardino Wrongful Death Attorney due to the resources they have to investigate and help you build a strong case. That includes:

  • Determining all liable parties. 
  • Obtaining police reports and photos or videos of the accident or the scene. 
  • Obtaining copies of medical records, receipts, and other paperwork that documents losses.
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses.
  • Hiring various experts to testify, such as an accident reconstruction expert to demonstrate how the accident occurred and prove fault or a forensic accountant to show how your family’s lives will be impacted financially.  

California courts apply the rule of pure comparative negligence in wrongful death cases. This law reduces a surviving family’s compensation depending on whether their deceased loved one contributed to the accident which caused their death. For example, if the deceased’s estate is awarded $500,000, but the victim was 30% responsible for their accident, the surviving family will only receive 70% of the award, or $350,000.

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