Having to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit is perhaps one of the most difficult things a person must go through in life. When someone you love has died, and that death was caused by the action or inaction of someone else, it’s a hard thing to get through and filing a lawsuit should never be done alone.
We typically think of medical malpractice suits when we hear of wrongful death charges. There are several ways that a wrongful death suit comes about in court. In addition to malpractice, people may die in a car accident, or through product defects or dangers.
In cases such as these, the burden is on the grieving family to prove liability on the part of the other individuals or companies. The plaintiff must be clear about what they think the guilty party did or did not do that resulted in the death of their loved one. Three types of damages can be included in a wrongful death lawsuit.
These are monetary losses that are incurred. Economic damages have a clear value, so they are easier to show. Among these damages are:
- Loss of Income
- Legal Costs
- Funeral Expenses
- Medical Bills
- Living Expenses
These damages are harder to prove but represent the bulk of most settlements. These include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Loss of Companionship
There are usually guidelines for settlements for non-economic damages.
These damages are usually only awarded when the defendant has acted intentionally, or in an obviously reckless manner. They are meant to punish the guilty party and deter others from acting the same way.
Duty of Care
The first three things that a plaintiff has to prove center around duty of care.
Did the defendant have a duty of care?
Doctors and nurses have certain professional duties to their patients. Drivers have a duty not to drive in a manner that would cause a wrongful death. Manufacturers have a duty to make sure that their products are safe and labeled correctly.
Was the duty of care breached?
The plaintiff will have to show how the defendant breached their duty of care. Was the defendant driving while impaired? Did the doctor or nurse act negligently?
Did this breach of the duty of care cause the wrongful death?
Was the wrongful death directly attributable to this breach of duty? If not, the defendant will probably not be charged with wrongful death.
Your Day in Court
Most likely, your case will not go to trial.Most wrongful death lawsuits in California, and in other states, are resolved by out of court settlements.
If you can prove that the case passes the care of duty test, a settlement will be negotiated. It is usually agreed upon between your personal injury attorney and the defendant’s representation.
If no settlement can be reached before your court date, you will appear in a civil court with your personal injury lawyer, and a jury will be selected to hear your case. For the jury to reach a verdict, 3/4 of jurors must agree on the verdict.