The unexpected loss of a loved one is naturally traumatic for the remaining family members. Learning that another party’s negligence or reckless behavior caused the death most likely exacerbates the trauma. In California, surviving family members who have the necessary grounds might be eligible to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit to pursue financial relief.
What are the legally supportable reasons for wrongful death lawsuits?
For a wrongful death lawsuit to be viable, the surviving family members must show that the defendant caused the loved one’s death and the impact the death had on the family. They must show the court that the death caused direct financial and emotional damages.
The court requires establishing the following two things:
- The first thing is proof that a deliberate act, recklessness or negligence caused the loved one’s death and that the deceased person’s action or inaction played no role in the cause of death.
- Secondly, the court would require the plaintiffs to provide evidence of measurable damages they suffered due to the wrongful death of their loved one.
What are the recoverable damages?
Once the surviving family members have established the necessary criteria for a wrongful death lawsuit, the court will adjudicate their documented claims. It could include the following:
- Medical expenses incurred after the accident and before the loved one’s death.
- Expenses related to end-of-life arrangements, including the costs of a funeral and burial.
- Compensation for lost wages. The amount is typically based on the deceased person’s total wages throughout normal life expectancy.
- Compensation for the surviving family’s pain and suffering brought on by their loved one’s death.
- Punitive damages ordered by the court to punish the defendant and discourage similar negligence or recklessness in the future.
Families who intend to pursue financial relief through a California civil court should not lose sight of the statute of limitations. If a wrongful death lawsuit is not filed within the first two years after a loved one’s death, the family will give up their right to file a claim at all.