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Steps to Take In A Wrongful Death Suit

In California, a wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the negligence, recklessness or intentional act of another party. California’s wrongful death law statute allows surviving family members or the estate to sue for damages when a person dies as the result of someone else’s wrongful act – whether the act was negligent, reckless, or intentional.

You should be aware that the same act or event can give rise to both a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal homicide prosecution. For example, if your loved one was shot to death by the defendant, the defendant may face a murder charge. However, the defendant’s survivors may be entitled to bring a wrongful death case against the defendant. 

The result of a successful wrongful death claim is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation. The party responsible for the death will be ordered to pay the decedent’s survivors money damages. The consequences of a murder conviction are much more severe. The convicted criminal defendant can expect prison time, probation, and perhaps an order to pay restitution to the decedent’s surviving family members.

The standard of proof refers to how much evidence is needed to prove that someone is legally responsible for a wrongful act. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In most civil lawsuits, including wrongful death cases, the defendant’s guilt need only be shown by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Under this legal standard, the plaintiff must show it’s more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the decedent’s death.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s surviving children, and the children of any deceased child of the decedent may bring a lawsuit. If there are no survivors among that group, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent if there was no will. This group would include, among others, the decedent’s parents and siblings.

Steps To Prepare For a Wrongful Death Suit

Preparing for a wrongful death suit in California requires thorough planning, gathering evidence, understanding legal procedures, and emotional readiness. Here’s a guide on how to prepare for a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

  • Understand California Wrongful Death Laws: Begin by familiarizing yourself with California’s wrongful death laws. In California, a wrongful death is defined as a death caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional act of another party. Understanding these laws will provide you with a foundation for your case.
  • Seek Legal Representation: Hiring an experienced Santa Ana wrongful death attorney is crucial for navigating the complexities of California’s legal system. Strongly consider engaging a lawyer who has successfully handled wrongful death cases under California law. There are many important considerations in strategizing a wrongful death case, so it’s important that your attorney has expertise and experience in this area. 
  • Gather Relevant Documents: Collect any documents and paperwork related to the death of your loved one, including medical records, accident reports, witness statements, and correspondence with insurance companies. These documents will be essential to help your lawyer develop your case and prove liability.
  • Identify Liable Parties: Any number of different people and individuals could be responsible for your loved one’s death. These could include individuals, companies, government agencies, or other entities whose actions or negligence contributed to the fatal incident. Your attorney can help you identify and investigate potential defendants.
  • Document Losses and Expenses: Keep detailed records of any financial losses and expenses incurred as a result of your loved one’s death, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost income. These damages may be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Prepare for Emotional Challenges: Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can be emotionally challenging for surviving family members. Be sure to take care of your emotional well-being by seeking support from friends, family, support groups, or mental health professionals.
  • Be Mindful of Time Limits: In California, there is a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a claim. This is an important deadline and, if you miss it, you may waive your rights to pursue your case.

How Case Resolution Proceeds

Before proceeding to trial, you may have the option to pursue a settlement through mediation or negotiation. Your Santa Ana wrongful death attorney can advise you on the pros and cons of settling out of court and help you evaluate any settlement offers you receive.

It’s important to be aware of the discovery process. This is where you and the defendant will exchange relevant information and evidence about the case and may include witness depositions and expert testimony. 

If a settlement cannot be reached by the parties, the case will proceed to trial. Your attorney will prepare you for trial by gathering additional evidence, preparing witnesses, and developing a trial strategy. You should be prepared for the possibility of testifying in court.

In the state of California, recoverable damages may include economic damages (such as medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost income) and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress). Although compensation varies, the average wrongful death settlement in California ranges between $250,000 and $500,000, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the particular case. 

Contact the Law Offices of Benjamin Arsenian, PC

A wrongful death suit can be legally complicated and emotionally exhausting. Nonetheless, it’s important that you stay involved in the progress of your case and communicate regularly with your attorney. Understand that the legal process is lengthy and results are not guaranteed. By managing your own expectations, you will be better able to see your wrongful death lawsuit through to its conclusion.

Here, at the Law Offices of Benjamin Arsenian, we have more than three decades of combined experience. Your best interests are always put first. Contact us today.