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How do You Prove a Wrongful Death Case?

Single or divorced woman alone missing a boyfriend while swinging on the beach at sunset

Coping with the loss of someone you love is one of life’s biggest challenges. Such a loss is exacerbated when it is a result of an unexpected accident or incident. In addition to the significant emotional impact and loss of love and companionship of that individual, the surviving family must also contend with economic losses such as loss of financial support provided by the decedent. Being in such a situation is never easy, but we are here to help. If you are considering taking legal action related to a wrongful death case in California, call or contact the experienced attorneys at the GP Law Group in Beverly Hills today to schedule a free legal consultation. 

What is Wrongful Death?

In California, a wrongful death occurs when someone loses their life as a result of the wrongful acts of another. These wrongful acts can include acts of negligence, recklessness, or intentional acts that result in the loss of life. The following is a list of the types of cases that typically involve wrongful death claims:

  • Automobile vs. automobile accidents
  • Automobile vs. pedestrian accidents
  • Automobile vs. bicycle accidents
  • Automobile vs. motorcycle accidents
  • Police shootings / officer-involved-shootings 
  • Homicide cases 
  • Trucking accidents
  • Work-related accidents

Who can File a Wrongful Death Case?

Only certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death claim in California. Under state law, the deceased victim’s spouse, children, or domestic partner may file a claim for wrongful death. If no spouse or children exist, then anyone who will inherit from the victim’s estate according to California’s intestacy laws can file the lawsuit. This includes surviving parents, siblings, or grandchildren. If a person was financially dependent on the victim, such as a putative spouse, putative children, stepchildren, or others, they too can file a claim for wrongful death.

However, it is important to know that the family of a victim of wrongful death only has a small window after the fatal incident to file a lawsuit. Known as the statute of limitations, California law requires that a wrongful death case be filed in court within two (2) years of the date of death. There are no exceptions to this rule, so hiring a wrongful death attorney who knows the rules and can take the necessary steps to preserve the legal rights of the surviving family is of paramount importance.   

Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim

Per California law, compensation for wrongful death cases includes damages for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include (1) financial support that the victim would have contributed to their surviving family during the course of their life expectancy, (2) the loss of gifts or benefits that the surviving family members would have expected to receive from the victim, (3) funeral and burial expenses, and (4) the reasonable value of household services that the victim would have provided.

Non-Economic damages include (1) the loss of the victim’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support, (2) the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations, and (3) the loss of training and guidance.

It is important to note that punitive damages are not available in wrongful death cases, only the economic and non-economic losses resulting from the victim’s death, as noted above. That being said, a wrongful death case can be filed in court even if no criminal charges are brought against those responsible for the fatal incident. This is because wrongful death cases are civil cases, not criminal.

How to Prove Wrongful Death

In order to prove a wrongful death case, the surviving family of the deceased must be able to show, by a “preponderance of the evidence,” that the negligent or reckless acts of those responsible resulted in the decedent’s death. More simply, the surviving family must be able to show that the negligent or reckless acts of those responsible “more likely than not” to have resulted in the decedent’s death. This is different from criminal cases where the standard of proof, i.e. “beyond a reasonable doubt,” is much higher.  

As for evidence in support of a wrongful death case, some of the most common evidence includes video footage, photographs, witness or party statements, traffic collision reports, vehicle stored data, autopsy reports, and coroner reports. Social media posts, text messages, and other technology can also be used as evidence in a wrongful death case. Additionally, an experienced wrongful death attorney will retain various types of expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts, to help establish fault in cases where fault is disputed. 

Talk to Our Office Now

If you, or anyone you know, has lost a loved one due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional acts of others, you need an experienced California wrongful death attorney to represent the interests of the surviving family. To learn more about your legal options after an unexpected loss, call or contact the GP Law Group in Beverly Hills today.

GP Law helps injured victims obtain the compensation they need to recover.

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