Burden of Proof and Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Burden of Proof and Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Burden of Proof and Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. Losing a loved one is a terrible experience at any time. However, that sense of loss is compounded when the death was caused by the negligent actions of another person or entity. While nothing will bring back that loved one, placing a claim for monetary damages due to a wrongful death, which is a civil action, can bring some closure to the family.

Burden of Proof

Those who place a wrongful death claim, whether that individual died as a result of a negligent driver, medical malpractice or for other causes, carry the burden of proof. This means the person making a claim, or plaintiff must prove that a particular individual or entity was directly responsible for the death. The causes of a wrongful death include auto accidents, medical malpractice, defective products and more. Under a wrongful death action, the following must be shown:

  • It must be shown that a negligent person or entity had a duty of care. For example, if the death was in a motor vehicle accident, it must be shown that the driver who caused the death had an obligation to follow the law and use the care a normal driver would to prevent an accident.
  • It must be shown that a negligent person or entity failed in that duty of care. In a motor vehicle accident, the driver who caused the collision was acting in a negligent manner such as drunk driving or speeding.
  • Breaking the law is not enough to prove wrongful death. It must be shown that the action committed by the wrongdoer directly caused the death. For example, the driver died as a direct cause of the drunk driver, not by something else.
  • Finally, it must be shown that the loss of a loved one due to another’s negligent actions caused financial loss to the surviving family members.

Recoverable Losses in a Wrongful Death

Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, the following may be claimed as compensation in a wrongful death. The personal injury damages claimed may also include a survival action if the loved one lived for a time before his or her death from the accident injuries:

  • Funeral and burial expenses can be recovered.
  • Lost income, including salary the deceased would have earned in the future, can be claimed. Health, life expectancy, and other factors are included in the calculation.
  • Benefits that are lost such as pension, health care that was provided to dependents, Social Security and the like are recoverable.
  • Household services previously performed by the decedent are taken into consideration. This may include lawn and automobile care, bill paying or childcare and cooking.
  • Loss of inheritance is the value the decedent would have added to his or her estate in a normal lifetime.
  • Loss of the decedent’s interaction with children of the family such as guidance, care, and training are recoverable.
  • The loss of consortium, moral support, affection and other non-economic damages caused by the death of a loved one can be included.
  • Punitive damages are only awarded in California if the death happened due to murder.

Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. A wrongful death in the family is a devastating experience that can leave family members in a state of shock. Nothing can bring back their loved one, however, financial compensation can make the transition a bit easier. If you have lost a family member because of the negligent actions of another person or entity, a sympathetic ear and my free, friendly advice may help. Call me at (916) 921-6400 locally or (800) 404-5400 if you live in other parts of Northern California.

I belong to the Million Dollar Forum as a member from California, which is open to top trial attorneys around the country who have demonstrated a settlement/verdict in excess of one million dollars for a client.

Feel free to look over comments and reviews by my previous clients and peers, along with a list of some of our earlier cases at:

Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/courtroom-benches-seats-law-898931/

:cd llo [cs 693] cv