There is nothing more devastating in the world than losing a loved one. The grief, the sorrow, the pain that comes with their sudden and permanent departure is sometimes too overwhelming for one person to experience. In some cases, the emotional burden is doubled after learning that the death of a person could have been prevented in the first place.
Such is the case in wrongful death claims. In layman's terms, a wrongful death occurs when someone is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another. While this may seem like a situation that can be prosecutable as a crime, wrongful death is actually a civil case. The standard of proof is lower in a civil case as compared to a criminal case for murder or manslaughter.
With that said, wrongful death claims are under a specific legal code. In each state, these legal codes vary widely. However, California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 is the statute responsible for wrongful deaths. This law allows family members of the deceased to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one. Unfortunately, only certain individuals are allowed to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the victim. These individuals are the following:
- The spouse or legal domestic partner of the deceased, and
- Children of the deceased
The persons mentioned above are generally eligible to file a wrongful death claim, but in the event that none of them are available, then the law allows the following individuals to bring up the wrongful death lawsuit:
- The parents of the deceased;
- The siblings of the deceased;
- The grandchildren of the deceased;
- The “putative” spouse of the deceased and their “putative” children; and
- The stepchildren of the deceased.
In this case, the parents, siblings, putative spouse and children, and stepchildren of the deceased can also only file a wrongful death claim if, and only if, they are financially dependent on the deceased or that they are entitled to the property of the deceased by interstate succession.
Now, we mentioned earlier that a wrongful death arises when an individual dies due to the negligence and misconduct of another person. The terms “negligence” and “misconduct” may be too vague and broad to properly enforce the law. To wit, negligence is a failure to take responsible care to avoid causing injury or loss to an individual while misconduct is a reckless or unlawful act that was deliberately done. Misconduct may not be necessarily directed towards the victim, but the nature of the behavior is the concern.
Many different circumstances can give rise to wrongful death. With that said, we are providing you a list of examples of unlawful acts that result in someone's wrongful death:
- A teenager is on his way home after attending a party. He is obviously too drunk to drive, but since nobody wants to take the wheel for him, he decided to do it anyway. In the middle of his trip, he passed out and left the car speeding towards a pedestrian lane. The car rams an old lady off the road, and she was killed on impact.
- After suffering from painful headaches for almost a week, a young girl decides to visit her family doctor. The doctor checks her up and, without going through proper diagnostic processes, diagnoses her with brain cancer. He then prescribes an abnormal dosage of medications for her to take every single day to apparently ease the pain. Unfortunately, she overdosed on pills and died a few days after.
- You are working in a fast-food restaurant as a kitchen crew. Your co-workers have been complaining about the faulty drainage system that has been leaking water to the tiled floors. One day, while you were running back and forth to cater orders from customers, your foot stepped on a slippery tile, causing you to lose your balance and hit your head against the floor. Your co-workers rushed you to the hospital but you already succumbed to your head injury and died.
Benefits and Damages to be Claimed
If the court finds that the death of your loved one was indeed caused by the misconduct or negligence of another individual, you may be compensated for the following:
- Funeral bills of the deceased;
- Medical bills of the deceased;
- Loss of wage;
- Loss of financial support; and
- Loos of consortium.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you are planning to seek compensation for the damages caused by the wrongful death of a loved one, our lawyers can help. We will make sure that you get the benefits that you deserve and we will fight aggressively for your case.
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