If you have experienced the death of a loved one, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and confused, whether it was sudden or expected. However, losing a loved one can be doubly difficult to recover from when it was a wrongful death.
Families of wrongful death victims can often trace the cause of death to the carelessness or negligence of a person, company or entity.
Many families pursue a wrongful death claim to seek justice, especially when a criminal trial may not be an option. At Hodes Milman Ikuta and Liebeck, we believe tremendous healing can be found in seeking legal help during this difficult time.
This article helps outline the steps to filing a wrongful death claim and your rights to just compensation for your losses. If you don’t find the answers you are looking for here, please contact us at (949) 640-8222 for a free, private phone call about your options moving forward. Every case is unique and we answer questions for free, without obligation.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death suit is intended to provide financial compensation to remaining dependents, including the surviving spouse, minor children and dependent adult children and parents.
A victim’s next-of-kin is entitled to recover damages, including but not limited to:
- Compensation for medical expenses
- Lost wages of the deceased person’s expected income
- Future loss of comfort, care, guidance that the deceased would have provided
- Funeral and burial costs
- Metal anguish
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship and consortium
Causes of Wrongful Death
Do you believe you have a wrongful death case? A personal injury attorney can help you determine if you should file a claim and guide you step-by-step through the process.
Examples of wrongful death suits may include:
- Intentional actions – Constitute wrongful death when a person’s ill intent causes a death
- Medical malpractice – Occurs when a doctor fails to properly diagnose a condition or gave careless medical care resulting in a patient’s death
- Reckless or Negligent Driving – May include excessive speeding, driving under the influence or distracted driving
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A successful wrongful death case requires proving four legal elements:
- Breach of duty
Financial awards are typically based on both actual economic loss and noneconomic loss, such as pain and suffering.
What Does it Mean to Prove Duty?
In the event of an automobile accident, an attorney proves duty by arguing that the driver responsible for the accident had an inherent duty to operate a car reasonably, at a safe speed, without distraction or being under the influence of drugs.
Though people make mistakes, they still have a responsibility – or duty – not to harm others by their own action or inaction. A judge will consider several factors when determining duty, such as how foreseeable the harm was and how closely the defendant’s actions (or lack thereof) caused the harm.
What is a Breach of Duty?
After establishing that a duty exists on behalf of the defendant, the plaintiff must next prove that there was a breach of duty.
Using the car accident example above, a person filing a wrongful death claim must present evidence that the defendant was not exercising caution while driving and was therefore behaving negligently.
Negligent behavior is based upon how a reasonably prudent person would act in a given situation. Because a reasonable person would know that distracted driving endangers others, a driver can be held liable for any damage caused by his or her dangerous driving. In wrongful death cases, a victim’s loved ones must prove a preponderance of evidence, meaning the facts of the case are at least 50% likely to be a true and accurate representation of what happened.
What is Causation?
Once a breach of duty is established, parties filing a wrongful death suit must prove causation, or that the defendant’s breach of duty harmed the victim.
Continuing in the same example, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant was responsible for the accident. If the victim was found to have died for an unrelated reason before the defendant was involved in the accident with the victim, a defendant may be relieved of the responsibility for a fatality.
Damages that Compensation Helps With
Finally, a plaintiff must prove the defendant caused actual harm as a direct result of his or her actions or inactions. The death of a plaintiff’s loved one will have caused real damages from which the surviving loved ones are to recover. These can include pain, emotional suffering, medical bills and funeral costs.
The Benefits of Legal Help After a Wrongful Death
If you think you have a case, your next step is to find the right legal team to represent you. Your attorney will handle all of the above details and will shoulder the legal burden for you.
A study by the Insurance Research Council revealed that seeking the help of a lawyer greatly improves your chances of success and higher compensation.
It’s important to avoid waiting to speak with a lawyer. The more quickly investigations can begin into gathering pertinent evidence to support your claim.
Important: Be advised when speaking to insurance company adjusters, who will often attempt to settle your claim for as little as possible. Insurance companies aim to protect their bottom line, not yours.
At Hodes Milman Ikuta and Liebeck, we offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis — meaning you don’t pay a dime until we secure compensation for you on behalf of your loved one.
Speak with an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one due to another’s carelessness, we want to hear from you. For over 30 years, we have helped numerous families heal from the tragedy of losing a loved one by another’s negligence.
We take care of our clients and our team works to improve your family’s quality of life with a convenient, hassle-free process. You can trust our firm; we have a proven track record of success and have built a reputation for having our clients’ backs.
Contact Hodes Milman Ikuta at (949) 640-8222 for a free consultation. Our lawyers will help you determine if you have a wrongful death case and will guide you through your next steps to securing your deserved compensation.