Wrongful Death Lawyer Los Angeles, CA
If an accident has claimed the life of a loved one, you may be able to bring a wrongful death action against the person or persons responsible. Often, an “accident” that results in death could be due to someone’s negligent act. Wrongful death actions can arise under many factual circumstances, and the complexities of such a lawsuit require experienced legal assistance.
If you have lost a family member due to the negligent actions of another, you should contact The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., as soon as possible to review the possible case and the services that are available. We understand the pain and difficulties that you and your family are facing and we will aggressively fight to protect your rights.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits Defined
A wrongful death occurs when someone is killed due to the negligent, reckless, or intentional act of another person (or entity). A wrongful death claim is brought by the surviving beneficiaries or dependents of the deceased victim and must be filed within two years of the victim’s death. The intent is to compensate the victim’s family members who have suffered economically and emotionally from the loss of a loved one.
Wrongful Death and Negligence
When trying to prove negligence in a wrongful death case, you must be able to prove that there was a duty to the victim, a breach of that duty, causation of the death, and finally, damages. To prove duty, the defendant must have been required to owe the deceased some recognized duty of care. Although this can vary depending on the terms of the case, it is usually a duty to do something to protect or keep another person safe. Such a duty applies to the doctor-patient relationship, a contractual relationship, to drivers that share a roadway, to property owners, and even to businesses who provide services to customers. If the duty exists, the plaintiff must then prove that the defendant breached the duty of care. Once the duty of care being breached is proven, the plaintiff must then prove that there was causation from the breach of duty to the plaintiff, meaning did the actions of the defendant cause the death of the victim. Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that there were actual damages from all of the items above.
Wrongful Death and Recklessness
Recklessness can be proven almost the same way as negligence. However, it is far more egregious conduct that is required to meet this standard. Recklessness involves conduct that constitutes a conscious disregard for the life of another person, which is just shy of actual intent to cause harm, but more significant than negligence. Negligence occurs when someone unknowingly causes harm (or, in this case, death) to another person, while recklessness is when someone knowingly took a risk, putting another person’s life at risk.
There are two tests to determine recklessness: a subjective test and an objective test. A subjective test is where the accused knew or was believed to have been thinking when the act happened. An objective test is what a reasonable person would have or should have thought in the defendant’s position. Either way, if the person should have had a conscious awareness of their conduct and that such conduct could lead to the death of another person, that is usually sufficient to prove that a defendant was reckless.
Examples of recklessness include, but are not limited to drinking and driving, car racing in residential areas, substance use in public areas, carrying concealed weapons, keeping guns in easily accessible areas when children are present, and having unprotected sex when you are aware you may or do have HIV/AIDS. These are not the only examples.
Wrongful Death and Intentional Acts
Intentional acts can range from murder by a gunshot to a doctor who intentionally injects or administers the wrong medication to a patient. The legal definition of intentional acts is any time a person or party acts with an intention to cause harm to another person or party.
Intentional acts are also known as intentional torts and are not the same thing as criminal charges.
Intentional torts are brought upon by a private citizen against another private citizen using a standard of “preponderance of the evidence” to prove their claims for monetary compensation from the accused. The government, on the other hand, will decide if someone was a murderer using a standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” As an example, a private citizen can sue for wrongful death, regardless of the person is convicted of murder or not. Think OJ Simpson, where Mr. Simpson was acquitted of the criminal charge brought by the State of California but held liable on the civil claims brought by the Goldman family. He was ordered to pay millions to the Goldman family for their damages.
Examples of Wrongful Death Causes
- Medical mistakes
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Airplane, train, bus, boat, or other transportation-related accidents
- Criminal attacks
- Defective products
- Food poisoning
- Failure to keep property safe (dangerous conditions on someone’s property)
- Work-related exposure to dangerous conditions or substances
Wrongful Death Cases – What Must Be Proven To Win?
In order to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit under California law, the following elements must be established:
- The death must be caused, in whole or in part, by the negligent conduct of the defendant
- There must be a surviving spouse, children, other legal dependents, or affected heirs
- The family of the victim must have suffered harm
- What Kinds of Damages & Settlement Amounts Can Be Recovered?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, a judge or jury will decide the amount of damages based on what is called “pecuniary injury.” This means they will consider how much money the family members of the deceased lost in some of the following areas:
- Loss of future financial support
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of the victim’s love, companionship, comfort, affection, protection, and moral support
- Loss of consortium (a spouse may sue for loss of the romantic/sexual relationship)
- Loss of the victim’s care and guidance as a parent
- Costs of funeral and burial expenses
- The family of the victim cannot recover damages for their own grief or sorrow. In some cases, wrongful death lawsuit settlement amounts and punitive damages are recoverable if the victim survived the accident, for any amount of time, before death occurred. Punitive damages are also available when the wrongful death resulted from a homicide and the defendant has been convicted of a felony.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney in Los Angeles, California
When a loved one is killed by the negligent action of another, the surviving family members can be devastated by feelings of grief, anger, confusion, and uncertainty about the future. In such a traumatic time, it is essential that you contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who can protect your legal rights while you cope with such a tragic loss.
The Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq. will fight to hold the liable parties accountable and help you secure the compensation that you deserve.