Losing a loved one because of someone else’s negligence is devastating. However, a family member can file for a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the fatality. While it will not bring the loved one back, it can bring a sense of justice for the death and also help with financial matters that may arise from the loss.
When you’ve finally decided to file suit against the person or persons who may have caused your loved one’s demise, the most important thing to do is find a good attorney that can help you file the wrongful death complaint. They will assist you in preparing your case for the court.
What are the elements of a wrongful death lawsuit?
Laws regarding wrongful death vary slightly in different states. However, in California, there are three essential elements in a wrongful death complaint.
- Death of a person – A plaintiff must establish that a person has died. If a person who was allegedly involved in a wrongful death is seriously injured but is still alive, then the plaintiff cannot file for wrongful death.
- Negligence – The plaintiff must prove that it is because of the defendant’s negligence that someone died. There must be a betrayal of a certain level of care that is required from the defendant (i.e. a car driver falling asleep or a doctor dispensing the wrong medicine).
- Plaintiff’s loss of relationship with decedent – This is usually considered by the courts to determine the amount of damages it will reward to the plaintiff if the defendant is proven guilty. The courts will review if the plaintiff was financially dependent on the deceased loved one.
How much is the amount of damages rewarded to the plaintiff?
Suppose the defendant is proven guilty of negligence, how much compensation will the plaintiff be able to claim? It is the court’s duty to decide how much the family will receive by considering various factors:
- Funeral and burial expenses for the deceased
- Salary background of the deceased, which will be determined by their educational background and work history.
- Future salary of the person had they been alive, including future raises and bonuses they might have received.
- Potential income of the person based on their life expectancy and overall health.
- Non-monetary contributions to the family, such as helping in household chores and caring for children.
- Hospital expenses prior to the death and the pain the deceased might have experienced during their final days.
The courts will also consider intangible losses for the family such as:
- Loss of relationship
- Loss of moral support
- Loss of guidance
- Loss of attention and many other emotional losses
What is the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim?
Depending on the state’s law, there is a limited window of opportunity during which the plaintiff can file for a wrongful death complaint. In many states, the statute of limitations is usually two years or less.
If the plaintiff fails to file a complaint before the statute of limitations expires, they will forfeit the right to recover damages. This is why it is important to consult your legal counsel as early as possible to prepare your case. Although no amount of money can ever compensate for the value of a loved one’s life, the damages that will be awarded to the family can lighten the weight of their financial burden associated with the passing as well as help them in starting anew.
Where to seek legal assistance?
Haffner Law is a trusted law firm in California that is experienced with helping individuals file for various claims, including wrongful death and life insurance.
Get in touch with one of our lawyers today. Call 1-844-HAFFNER (423-3637) or contact us for a free consultation.