How To Prove Legal Liability In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When someone suffers injuries in an accident or incident caused by another person, the law gives them the right to file a personal injury claim for their damages. If a victim’s injuries are fatal, however, the victim no longer has the opportunity to file a lawsuit. In this situation, California law gives surviving family members the right to file a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful death claims can arise from accidents caused by another person’s negligence or an intentional wrongful act. In either situation, the legal process requires family members to sufficiently prove who was liable for the death in order to recover for their losses. The following is some information about proving liability in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Proving Negligence

When someone is negligent and causes a fatal accident, family members must prove every element of negligence in order for a claim to be successful. The elements of negligence include:

  • The liable party owed the deceased a duty of care at the time of the accident
  • The liable party failed to abide by the duty of care
  • This failure caused the accident and fatal injuries to the deceased
  • The death resulted in specific losses to the family members bringing the claim

Wrongful Death can happen in many ways, and the circumstances of the death will determine the duty of care and how a breach of the duty may occur. For example:

  • After a fatal traffic collision – Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner, and you must prove they failed to do so by violating a traffic law or another careless act.
  • After a death caused by a dangerous product – Companies have the duty to sell safe products.  When they sell defective products that cause death and injury to consumers they are liable.  A plaintiff needs to prove that there was a defect in the design, manufacturing or marketing of the product and that defect caused or contributed to the death or injury.
  • After a death due to a dangerous property hazard – Plaintiff needs to prove who owned, leased or controlled the dangerous property.  These defendants have a duty to inspect and keep their property premises safe for visitors.  If they failed do so and the dangerous condition causes death or injury then the defendant is liable for all harm.
  • After a death caused by medical malpractice – Doctors have a duty to abide by specific standards of care to patients. You must prove that a doctor’s error fell below the standard of care and that error caused the death.

It is important to have a lawyer who has handled your type of case before, so they know how to present evidence to prove negligence.

Proving Intentional Acts

In some cases, the liable party is not negligent but instead, acted intentionally to cause harm. Homicides commonly lead to civil claims for wrongful death in addition to criminal cases. To prove intentional harm, you must prove the following elements:

  • The liable person had the intent to act as they did
  • The liable person made contact with the victim without consent (it can include contact with a bullet, vehicle, or another weapon)
  • The contact resulted in the fatal harm

These cases are different from criminal proceedings, and you need a wrongful death lawyer who can prove liability and seek the damages your family deserves after a tragic loss.