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Elements and Stages of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | Jun 10, 2018 | 0 Comments

A wrongful death comes under a personal injury claim when loved ones of the deceased claim the economic or non-economic compensations. In such a lawsuit, the defendant at fault is not allowed to escape civil liability. Although the money cannot replace the loss of life, however by law this is the only compensation available in these lawsuits. So, the decedents of the victim pursue monetary compensation.

Elements that Make a Legit Wrongful Death Claim:

In order to recover the compensation, the claim must contain elements that are established but the state law. In general, most of the states' law includes the following elements to consider a claim a legitimate one:

  • Death of the Victim:

The first and foremost element of the wrongful death claimsis that the individual died in the same accident. If the accident occurred, the person is severely injured but is alive physically, the claim will not be considered as legitimate.

  • The Death was Caused by the Negligence of the Defendant:

Second, the death must be the cause of the defendant's negligence. This refers to the aspect that the defendant was supposed to take into consideration the standards of the care but breached those standards which caused the death of the individual.

For instance, if the person died as a consequence of a car accident, the defendant may have not observed the safety rules, care or caution that a sensible person would have done. In general, negligence means that someone did something which caused death, it can be a doctor who makes a mistake during surgery or fails to do something that could prevent death.

  • The Severe Impacts on the Plaintiff:

The death of the decedent must put severe impacts on the plaintiff. For example, the decedent was bearing the expenses of the plaintiff. The economic impact is a legitimate element which causes huge suffering for the plaintiff.   

Determining Severity of the Damages:

There can be few complications that can arise in the wrongful death lawsuit. One of the most complicated aspects is to determine the amount of the damages done to the plaintiff. In order to determine this, there are several factors that the court has to consider to compensate, such as:

  • The past income history of the decedent
  • The potential raises that decedent would have received
  • The decedent's life expectancy and health to gauge the amount of income lost because of the defendant.
  • In addition to this, the court will also gauge the decedents' non-monetary contributions to the household, for instance, housekeeping, and caregiving.

While the court determines the number of damages, it can compensate the plaintiff in terms of paying for the medical bills, funeral expenses, and other financial loss such as loss of future income, companionship, loss of inheritance, pain, and suffering. In case the actions of the defendant which caused the death were intentional or egregious, the court can grant punitive damages which means that the defendant will be punished and deter him or her to carry out such actions in future.

The statute of Limitations:

Filing for such cases, usually, there is somewhat limited time for the plaintiff, which is normally two or less than two years. The statute of limitations also depends upon the particular state laws. If the plaintiff does not bring forth the lawsuit before this time period expires, the right to compensation will be lost unless there are certain specific circumstances.

In California, there three statutes of limitations for the wrongful death claims:

  • In most of the cases, the plaintiff can file a lawsuit within 2 years of the death.
  • If it is medical malpractice, 3 years from the date of the injury occurred, or 1 year after the discovery of the cause of death.
  • If there is a case against a government entity, the plaintiff has 6 months to file the lawsuit.

There are many other rules and procedures regarding such claims. If you are suffering due to the death of your loved one, your California wrongful death attorney can definitely provide you compensations for the losses.

About the Author

Timothy J. Ryan

Personal injury attorney Timothy J. Ryan has helped California injury victims recover more than $1 Billion since 1981. Tim is on the board of governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and received the 2020 award "10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys" for client satisfaction.


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Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results for grieving families. If you have questions about your loved one's death, you can obtain a free consultation from attorney Timothy J. Ryan. Call (714) 898-4444 to get help today.