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How can you prove wrongful death?

Losing a loved one is never easy, but when your loved one dies as a result of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing, you likely feel enormous anger as well as immense grief. You may wish to consider bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the person responsible for your loved one’s death as one way to help you deal with your pain and anger.

In California, you can file a wrongful death suit if the deceased was one of the following:

  • Your spouse
  • Your domestic partner
  • Your child
  • Your grandchild if (s)he has no surviving children
  • Any minor child for whom you provided at least 50% of his or her financial support
  • Any person from whom you would inherit by intestate succession

As FindLaw explains, once you file your suit, you must then prove the following in order to prevail:

  • Your loved one died.
  • (S)he died because of the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing.
  • The defendant knew or should have known that what (s)he did would harm your loved one.
  • The defendant’s actions constituted the proximate cause of the death.
  • The death resulted in your suffering damages.

Keep in mind that a wrongful death suit represents a civil action in which money damages are the only thing you can receive. However, the judge or jury can award you compensation for both your economic and noneconomic losses, including such things as the amount of your loved one’s hospital and other medical bills prior to his or her death; the amount of his or her funeral expenses; the value of his or her love, affection, companionship, etc. that you lost; and the value of the inheritance you lost because of his or her untimely death. If the judge or jury determines that the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious, you may also receive punitive damages above your actual damages. This is the only way a wrongful death suit can “punish” the defendant.

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