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If someone else’s actions caused the death of your loved one, you should seek legal redress to have them held accountable for the loss. In California, the surviving family members of the deceased are entitled to wrongful death damages. However, proving that you deserve compensation is more difficult than recovering these damages.

As you will see in this article, to hold someone or an entity accountable in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, the courts and state law demand that you adhere to particular procedures and provide enough proof.

The Elements You Must Prove in a California Wrongful Death Case

The death of a loved one is always a tragedy, but when someone else’s negligence causes the death, it is hard to handle. If you are in this situation, you could wonder what you need to do to prove that the at-fault party is responsible in a California court.

  • Proving Negligence

In a California wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of death. There are four elements to proving negligence, including: 

  1. Duty of care. Duty is the legal obligation to use reasonable care to avoid causing injury to others. For example, all drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles reasonably and safely.
  2. Breach of duty. Breach of duty occurs when the defendant fails to meet the standard of care required by law, and this failure proximately causes death. In other words, the defendant’s negligence must be why your loved one died.
  3. Causation. Causation is typically proved through expert testimony and shows that the defendant’s breach of duty was a substantial factor in causing your loved one’s death. 
  4. Damages. Damages are the losses you suffer due to the defendant’s negligence. In a wrongful death case, damages could include loss of earnings, loss of companionship, and funeral expenses.

Proving Duty of Care

You must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased before the court can grant you compensation. This means the defendant was legally obliged to exercise reasonable care to avoid foreseeable harm to the dead. 

To prove duty of care, you must retain expert witnesses who can testify about the applicable standards of care and how the defendant breached those standards. Suppose you have lost a loved one in an accident or due to another person’s negligence. In that case, professional personal injury attorneys in Bakersfield, California, could help you investigate your case and determine whether you have a claim.

Establishing Breach or Violation of Duty

Under this element, you must prove that the defendant breached or violated a duty owed to the deceased. You could do this in many ways, especially by showing that the defendant failed to take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm. For example, if the at-fault driver was overspeeding and caused a fatal car accident, you could sue for wrongful death, alleging that the driver breached their duty to drive safely.

The law requires that you present evidence showing what the defendant did or did not do that caused the death. In court, you could present eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, or other pieces of evidence. After establishing a breach of duty, you must show that this breach resulted in your loved one’s death. You could present medical records or expert testimony showing that your loved one died directly from the defendant’s actions.

Proving Causation

The court requires you to prove that the death was caused by the defendant’s negligence or other wrongdoing. This requires showing that the death would not have occurred for the defendant’s actions or inaction.

There are many ways to establish causation, but one of the most important is to show that the defendant had a duty to the deceased person and that they breached that duty. For example, a driver has to operate their vehicle safely, and if they cause an accident that results in someone’s death, they may be held liable.

Other evidence that can be used to establish causation includes eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, and circumstantial evidence. It is important to note that causation can be difficult to prove, so it is important to consult with an experienced attorney before filing a wrongful death claim.

Proving Damages

Another important element in a wrongful death case is damages. You and the surviving family members should show that you suffer loss because of the death. This could include financial losses, like the loss of income from the deceased, and emotional disturbance, including the loss of companionship. 

Proving Intentional Harm

Sometimes, you must prove that someone else’s intentional harm caused your loved one’s death. To do this, you must show that the person who caused the death did so with the intent to harm or kill the victim. This could be difficult to prove, but if you could show that the person had a history of violence or threatened the victim in the past, it could help win your case. You also need to show that the person knew their actions would likely result in death.

If you could prove these elements, you would improve your chances of winning your wrongful death claim in California. A personal injury attorney could also help you gather evidence and build a strong case to receive the compensation you deserve.

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