CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

Stages of Grief After a Wrongful Death

Dealing With Grief When a Loved One Dies

No one is prepared for a wrongful death when it happens. One moment you are preparing dinner or heading home from work, the next you are being told that a loved family member has died. Family members ricochet through the stages of grief. Everyone grieves differently, however, the stages of grief are consistent for survivors of all kinds.

What Are the Stages of Grief?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published On Death and Dying in 1969. As a psychiatrist who worked with the terminally ill, she described the stages of grief. Since then, variations of this description have appeared, yet the basics are the same:

  • Shock and denial: The initial reaction for many people is disbelief. The thought that somehow the news is wrong and untrue seeps in. Shock follows, and the person’s emotions may be disconnected from reality. In short, nothing seems real.
  • Sadness: In this phase, the person’s death has been accepted, and the family is filled with sorrow. 
  • Vulnerability: Family members may feel helpless and vulnerable. They are fearful that the same thing can happen again, and they are unsure of how to prevent it. 
  • Guilt: For some people, this is one of the most difficult of all emotions to overcome. Imagine a mother whose child is killed while heading home on their bicycle. Despite the fact that this is a normal activity, the mother may blame herself for allowing the child to do it. In reality, the parent had no reason to believe that a drunk driver would cross over into a bike lane and hit their child. Guilt is an unfair, cruel emotion we inflict on ourselves. 
  • Anger: This emotion is a common reaction when a loved one is killed by a negligent person such as a drunk driver or an incompetent doctor. In many ways, it is justified. However, anger is capable of destroying the person who feels it. Bargaining is an end result of the anger for some people who want their loved ones to return. 
  • Regret: The many regrets a person has after a sudden death can be categorized as missed opportunities. These range from not being home when the person left the house to tell them you loved them to missing a birthday party or graduation. 
  • Improvement: Gradually, the grieving person improves, and things begin to have meaning once again. Some physical symptoms that accompanied the initial grief, such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches, or insomnia, begin to fade.
  • Reconstruction: In this stage, the bereaved person begins to structure a life without the person they love. Because of the many issues a loved one’s death brings, the grieving person may now see solutions and think with more clarity. 
  • Acceptance: Finally, at the end of a long journey, the grieving person begins to accept that their loved one is gone and that life continues without them. This is not an easy step, and one where there are many relapses. However, with time, there is some measure of comfort and hope for the future.

Please watch the following video about wrongful death claims presented by attorney Ed Smith:


Justice in a Wrongful Death Claim

When a loved one is killed by a reckless or negligent person, family members often wonder how anyone could be so careless. They wonder if that person will do the same thing to another individual. A wrongful death lawsuit will hold the person responsible for the harm they inflicted. In some cases, the jury even awards punitive damages. These are not like the compensatory damages that repay the financial loss their family suffered due to their loved one’s demise. Rather, punitive damages are used to punish the wrongdoer for the egregious harm they did and might keep them from doing it again. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Family members who lived with the deceased and benefitted from their support are able to file a wrongful death claim. This includes the spouse of the deceased person, their children, and stepchildren who live with them and parents if they are supported by them. In some cases, especially if the person is not married and does not have living children, siblings are also able to file. 

What Is Covered by a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The wrongful death claim works to compensates the family for the financial loss associated with their loved one’s death. While it does not lessen their grief, it does make it easier to pay for funeral and burial expenses and other end-of-life costs. In addition, the lawsuit covers the cost of doing jobs around the home normally handled by the decedent. It also covers the loss of school funds, the salary the deceased person earned or will have earned in the future or spousal support both emotionally and financially. 

What an Attorney Can Do

In this emotionally challenging time, it is essential to seek the services of a seasoned wrongful death lawyer. At our firm, we examine the accident for evidence vital in proving fault and interview witnesses who saw the incident unfold. Our investigators obtain video footage from traffic surveillance cameras and review police records for errors. Once our investigators are finished, the information is provided to our legal team to use as they draft a strong case for the family.

Ranch Cordova Wrongful Death lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Rancho Cordova wrongful death attorney. My staff and I empathize with those clients who have lost someone due to negligence and help them obtain justice for their loved ones. Call me at (916) 921-6400 or at (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach me online.

I’ve helped numerous Rancho Cordova clients with car accidents and traumatic events in addition to wrongful deaths over the past 37 years.

I am proud to belong to the Million Dollar Advocates, an organization that grants membership to those lawyers who have won more than $1 million for a client. I am also a member of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel, a group that awards membership to the top 1 percent of lawyers in the country who provide excellence in their practice. 

To learn more about my practice, go to the following websites:

Photo Attribution:;

:cd llo [cs 1,042]

Contact Information