When the carelessness and negligence of one person causes an accident and the death of another person anywhere, the decedent's surviving family members can retain a wrongful death lawyer in Torrance for help with filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit is not a criminal prosecution. It's a civil action seeking compensation for damages. Although a wrongful death case can be filed at the same time as a criminal prosecution on the same set of facts, California law requires our Torrance wrongful death attorneys to file a wrongful death case in civil court with a different judge and jury in a different courtroom.
Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Case
In a criminal prosecution, if the defendant is found guilty of a criminal offense, the court is only allowed to sentence him or her in accordance with California criminal statutes. The issue of damages isn't presented to the jury. Damages are contemplated in the civil wrongful death case that is brought by a Torrance wrongful death attorneys. Pursuant to the California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60, here are the types of damages that our personal injury lawyer in Torrance will seek on behalf of the decedent's family:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- The sums of money that the decedent would have earned as income over a lifetime had his or her untimely death not occurred.
- The loss of financial support for the decedent's household.
- The loss of household services like landscaping, cleaning, cooking, attending to children and ordinary tasks that are performed every day.
- Financial compensation for the loss of the decedent's companionship, guidance, moral support and affection.
- Other Damages Pursuant to California's Survival Statute
Unless it's unequivocal that the family member was killed instantly, a wrongful death lawsuit is also brought along with what's known as a survival action pursuant to section 377.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. The survival action is brought as a second count of the wrongful death lawsuit, but it's brought by the estate of the decedent for purposes of compensating it for damages that were suffered from the time of the accident until the victim's death. They might consist of the following:
- Medical bills.
- Lost earnings up to the time of death.
- Any damage to personal property.
- Pain and Suffering and Punitive Damages
California damages law doesn't contemplate a person's pain and suffering before the time of death. Although no punitive damages are recoverable in a California wrongful death case, they might be allowed in a survival action.
Wrongful death settlements are common in California for a variety of reasons. If a large corporation is involved, it might insist on any wrongful death settlements being confidential. It won't want to admit liability or disclose the amount of any such settlements for fear of scaring off investors or the general public.
The Burden of Proof
In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only prove the defendant guilty by a preponderance of the evidence. What that means is that the plaintiff's version of events is more likely true than not true.
Proving Negligence and Damages
Although a small minority of wrongful death lawsuits are based on alleged intentional acts or recklessness, nearly all of such cases are brought under the law of negligence. If your family member's death was caused by the alleged negligent act or failure to act of somebody else, you must prove the following elements:
- A duty of care was owed by the defendant to the decedent.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The breach of duty caused the accident, the injuries and the family member's death.
- The family member's death caused losses to his or her family members.
Proving Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
Proving damages in a wrongful death case can be a difficult legal endeavor. Expert testimony would likely be needed to show how much money an individual would have earned over the course of his or her career. Many variables fall into that equation. Other damages are difficult to calculate because they just don't carry a price tag with them.
There are many complicated matters of proof involving liability and damages in wrongful death cases that a personal injury lawyer in Torrance must analyze and address. Proving liability and damages during settlement discussions or in a trial requires the effective assistance of a quality wrongful death lawyer in Torrance. If you lost a family member as a result of the negligence, recklessness or intentional act of somebody else, contact the Molchan Law Firm to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation. You can tell us what happened and how it happened, and we can answer your questions. After that, you will be advised of all of your legal options.