Losing a loved one is never easy. The first question that goes through one’s head is, how could this have happened? If you suspect negligence or neglect may have caused your loved one’s death, it is a good idea to call an attorney right away to initiate in investigation.
Some of the most common causes of death involving negligence are car accidents, medical malpractice, pharmaceutical liability, defective products and dangerous property. In elder abuse cases involving death, neglect and/or abuse are common causes of death.
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In California, the negligent act has to be a substantial factor in causing the death. While this may sound like a high threshold to meet, it actually is not. The law says that the definition of “substantial factor” is anything more than a remote or trivial factor. What is more, there can be multiple negligent causes of death and each can still be considered a substantial factor. As a result, multiple people or entities can liable for one person’s death.
Another question that comes up when a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence is, how can I seek justice? We are not living in the stone ages where “an eye for an eye” literally meant an eye for an eye. The only justice outside of criminal prosecution (in only certain cases involving negligence) is accomplished through a civil lawsuit.
The law is specific as to who sue for wrongful death. Not everyone has the right to sue. Generally speaking, it is usually the children, spouses, siblings and parents that can sue for wrongful death. However, other family members can also sue, depending on what other family members are alive at the time of death. For example, if your grandmother dies and your parents are deceased, you would be able to sue for wrongful death. However, if your parents are alive, you would not be able to sue, they would.
The damages that are available in wrongful death cases are also complex. Typically, the injured person in a lawsuit can sue for economic damages (loss of earnings, medical bills, property damage) and also for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Ironically, in a wrongful death case, the injured person’s pain, suffering and emotional distress damages die with them. That means the family is only able to recover the economic damages on behalf of the deceased.
However, each family member that sues for wrongful death is also able to recover non-economic damages for the loss of their loved one. More specifically, each family member can recover money for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, sexual relations, training and guidance. Each is also able to recover economic damages for loss of financial support, gifts, benefits, funeral and burial expenses and the reasonable value of household services.
The difficult part is analyzing what the value is of each family member’s non-economic damages. The value is largely determined by how close the family member was to the deceased. The stronger the relationship and closer the connection, the greater the value of the case.
The laws related to who caused the death, who has the right to sue and what damages are available are complicated and require analysis by an experienced wrongful death attorney in San Diego. We have handled many of them and are happy to help.