When somebody dies as a result of an accident or another type of incident, those who are left behind experience tremendous trauma. Often, they feel helpless because they don’t know what occurred or how it really happened. This is particularly true if there is an element of negligent behavior, action or inaction on the side of someone else.
In San Diego, California, if someone dies as a result of negligence by another party, you are within your rights to file a suit for wrongful death. However, there are a lot of rules, regulations and laws that surround these types of cases and it is all too easy to get stuck in these. This is why it is so important to find a dedicated attorney who is able to help you expose the truth, and hold those responsible for the death accountable for their actions or inaction.
Naturally, no amount of money is able to bring a loved one back. However, it can relieve the financial burdens that you have experienced as a result of the death. These include burial expenses and loss of income, for instance.
Common Types of San Diego Wrongful Death Cases
Death can happen in many different situations. However, in San Diego, the most common reasons for wrongful deaths are:
- Pedestrian car accidents
- Car accidents
- Medical malpractice events
- Motorcycle accidents
- Defective products
How to File a Wrongful Death Case in San Diego
If there is negligence on the side of a third party and this caused the death of a loved one, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death suit. The third party could be an individual, but it could also be a business as a whole, or even the government. However, you will have the burden of proof, meaning that you must be able to demonstrate that your loved one’s death was a direct result of the action or inaction of the third party.
Before you can file a wrongful death case, however, you need to decide who will be the personal representative or executor in the case. In most cases, this is a decision that is made by the family as a united body. However, if a dispute exists, the courts can make this decision for you, determining which member of the family will be best able to represent the best interests of the decedent.
To file a wrongful death case, you must contact an attorney who will help you to gather witnesses and evidence in order to establish the truth behind your claim. Various types of evidence exist, including:
- Police reports
- Medical reports
- Camera footage
- Car damage
- Eyewitness testimony
- Pictures after the accident
Furthermore, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate three separate elements in a wrongful death case. These are:
- A duty of care – The defendant must have owed a duty of care towards the person who died, and the plaintiff must demonstrate this to the court. For instance, should a vehicle accident have caused the death, the plaintiffs must be able to demonstrate that the other party should have obeyed the rules of the road, which include driving safely at all times.
- A breach of duty of care – It must also be proven by the plaintiff that a breach of the duty of care took place on the side of the defendant. In the case of a road vehicle accident, for instance, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant did not obey a certain traffic law. For instance, the defendant may have been running a red light, may have been speeding, or may have been driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Causation. The plaintiff must, in other words, show that the defendant broke certain laws or failed in their duty of care in any other way. Additionally, the plaintiff must demonstrate that these actions led to the death of the decedent. Continuing with the same example, even if a defendant ran a red light, but the decedent died as a result of mechanical failure in his or her own vehicle, then the defendant will not be at fault and cannot be sued for wrongful death.
Once a personal representative has been appointed, evidence has been gathered and the three points above have been met, a lawyer will then take a case to court, or attempt to settle it out of court with the defendant.
Why Should You File a Wrongful Death Case?
Suing someone will never be able to bring back a loved one. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish anything by filing a claim. For starters, it can help ease the financial effects of the death, which is a burden carried by the surviving family members. Some of the damages you can sue for include:
- Medical bills and hospitals bills related to the action that caused the death.
- Burial and funeral expenses.
- Loss of income for the time period that the decedent could have reasonably been expected to live and financially support their family.
- Property damage, if an accident caused the death for instance.
Spouses may also be able to sue for loss of consortium. This means a financial value is placed on the companionship, love and help the plaintiff will miss out on as a result of the death.
To gauge the amount of funds for loss of consortium and loss of earnings, your lawyer will have to demonstrate joint life expectancy. Furthermore, you must be able to prove that you will suffer an emotional loss.
Statute of Limitations
Finally, you must be aware of the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335-349.4, which states that there is a time limit on wrongful death cases. The statute of limitations in the state of California is two years. Certain exceptions and dispensations do exist on this, which is something you must discuss with your attorney in order to file at the right time and be able to get compensation.