What You Need to Know About Wrongful Death Cases

An action for wrongful death may be brought when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. Here are 7 types and examples of a wrongful death case.

California’s wrongful death laws allow family members to file wrongful death claims in order to receive compensation when someone else’s negligent actions result in the death of their loved one. Wrongful death claims require a preponderance of evidence to be shown.

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is the death of a person as a result of the tortious conduct (a wrongful act that may be sued for monetary damages) of another person or legal entity. It is a civil action for damages brought by the victim’s survivors, regardless of a criminal proceeding that might or might not be brought against the defendant. In order to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to someone, they must be the heirs of the deceased.

Types and Examples of Wrongful Death

There are plenty of types and examples of wrongful death. This includes car accidents, medical malpractice, accidents in a workplace, defective products, pedestrian accidents, plane crashes, drownings, and even suicide.

1. Car accidents

Wrongful death in a car accident may be due to the negligence of a driver by speeding, reckless driving, distracted driving, drunk driving, road defects, or construction activity on the streets. If any of these apply, the driver, county, or manufacturer may be liable for wrongful death, depending on the circumstance.

Related: Grounds to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in California

2. Medical malpractice

In medical malpractice wrongful death cases, a doctor or nurse may fail to follow the proper procedures. This may come about in a birth injury, inaccurate diagnosis, delayed and/or improper treatment, lack of informed consent, pharmaceutical errors, surgical errors, or even defective medical devices. Either way, a hospital, doctor, or nurse may be liable for wrongful death when a patient is harmed due to negligence or error.

Related: How to Sue a Hospital in California: What You Need to Know

3. Work accidents

Employers or a company may be liable for wrongful death in the case of their employee or worker dying as a result of an accident in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to keep their employees safe in the workplace. Examples of workplace wrongful death claims can be a result of manufacturing accidents, transportation industry accidents, railroad worker injuries, motion, or strain injuries.

4. Defective products

Manufacturers are required to make sure their products are safe to use. However, the safety of a product is not always ensured. In the case of a defective product leading to a death of an individual, a wrongful death claim may be made. This could be a result of faulty pharmaceuticals, toxic food products, dangerous child toys or products, or perhaps defective vehicles.

5. Pedestrian accidents

Wrongful death claims for pedestrian accidents may be the result of a vehicle striking a person walking or riding a bicycle. Pedestrian accident wrongful death claims typically occur due to the negligence of a driver, but sometimes a city or county may be held liable if the driver could not see the pedestrian due to a lack of visible pedestrian walkways.

6. Plane crashes

Although rare, plane crashes do occur. In the case of one happening, wrongful death claims are likely to arise. This may occur because of mechanical issues with the airplane, or even with pilot errors. Depending on the circumstance, the plane company or the pilot may be held liable.

7. Suicide

If a defendant intentionally causes serious mental distress or serious physical suffering—and it is proven to have been a substantial factor in bringing about the suicide of someone—they may be liable for a wrongful death claim. This is regardless of whether or not the suicide was committed in a state of insanity or in response to the defendant’s actions.

Evidence Necessary for Wrongful Death Claims

In order to prove a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff must prove the existence of the following:

  • A human being died,
  • The death was caused by one’s negligence or another’s intent to cause harm, and
  • The surviving family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death.

The law in wrongful death claims requires a “preponderance of evidence,” which means that the burden of proof is met when the plaintiff’s party can convince the court that there is a greater than 50% chance that their claim is true.

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