Today we continue our six part series on wrongful death by exploring the questions of “who can sue for wrongful death?” as well as “who do you sue for wrongful death?”. If you would like to start at part 1 of our 6 part series please read the previous article titled What is Wrongful Death?.
If you are discovering this series of articles because you have lost a family member or loved one please know that we understand your emotional loss and hope you find this series of articles helpful in navigating this difficult time.
Wrongful Death Determination: Do You Have a Case?
Who can sue for wrongful death?
Family members or a designated representative for the decedent’s family can file a civil suit in California to recover monetary damages. Even if a criminal case resulting from the death is already underway, that does not prevent civil action, nor does the determination in a criminal case affect the outcome of the civil wrongful death case.
You have a legal right to sue if you are:
- The spouse of the decedent
- The child or stepchild of the decedent
- A person who suffers losses resulting from the wrongful death
- An heir to the estate
Who do you sue for wrongful death?
A viable wrongful death case must meet several criteria:
- The death must be the result of another party’s willful act or failure to act
- The responsible party must have had a duty of care toward the decedent
- The moving party must be an immediate relative, financial dependent or a representative of a person directly affected by a wrongful death
- The person, people, or entities responsible must be identifiable
- The plaintiff(s) must prove direct losses from the death
Establishing the liability (blame) of the other party can often be a huge challenge. Based on the facts of the case and the testimony of witnesses, the plaintiff’s attorney must demonstrate that the death directly resulted from negligence or intentional actions.
For example, if the other driver ran a red light and hit your relative’s car, causing her death, that driver would likely be liable. Disobeying traffic signals is either intentional or negligent. In contrast, if two cars collided in the fog due to low visibility, it is possible that neither driver would be more liable than the other.
Liability is not restricted to individuals, as your wrongful death attorney can explain. The liable party may be a municipal government or a manufacturer as well.
Often, it will be an insurance company that pays the damages. Insurance companies typically offer you a settlement before going to court to avoid the time and expense of a courtroom case. However, the settlement is not always in your best interests. Make sure your wrongful death lawyer has the knowledge to advise you in such situations and is not afraid to fight for you in court.
In other cases, the individual or organization liable for your loved one’s death must pay out of pocket in compliance with a court order. The compensation may include payment for the legal fees involved in the case. Typically, wrongful death lawyers do not charge you for their services unless they win a damage award for you. Their fee may be a percentage of that award.
Once again, if you found this blog article because you are currently grieving the loss of a loved one, we want you to know how sorry we are for your loss. It is our hope and prayer that you are experiencing extra love, support and understanding from everyone around you. You do not need any extra stress or pain in your life right now. That’s why it is our sincere hope that this series of articles has helped you, even in some small way, by providing timely answers to your questions.
Should you decide to pursue legal action, we hope these articles helps you know how to choose the best legal representation for your wrongful death action so you fully obtain just compensation for your losses. Your attorney should have a proven record of success in such cases as well as a strong background in liability litigation.
Other articles in this series
- Part 1: What is Wrongful Death?
- Part 2: Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
- Part 3: Wrongful Death – Why Hire an Attorney?
- Part 4: Why Sue for Wrongful Death?
- Part 5: How Do I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
- Part 6: How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
About the author:
Rizio Law Firm has an established history of providing committed and compassionate legal representation for the families of wrongful death victims in Southern California. The attorneys at Rizio Law have earned a solid reputation for success. Call them at 888-292-8888 to schedule a free initial consultation, or fill out the contact form today.