Wrongful Death Is a Personal Injury Case
Personal injury is an area of law that provides victims who have suffered losses caused by negligence with an opportunity to navigate our civil justice system, hold an at-fault party accountable, and recover financial compensation for their damages. Personal injury law can involve claims and lawsuits filed for a number of reasons – including harm and losses caused by negligent drivers in car accidents, negligent trucking companies whose safety violations lead to truck accidents, injuries caused by defective products, dog bites, and more. They can also include cases of wrongful death, which are pursued by family members who lose loved ones in preventable accidents.
Although there are a variety of cases that fall under personal injury law, they all share the commonality of damages caused by negligence. This is why families who lose a loved one due to another’s negligent or wrongful acts may have the right to pursue a wrongful death case. As a civil legal action, wrongful death claims seek to hold an at-fault party accountable for negligently causing a preventable death, which may occur in numerous ways. For example, our legal team at Caraway Injury Attorneys handle cases involving a range incidents leading to wrongful death, including:
- Drunk driving accidents
- Distracted driving accidents
- Pedestrian or bicycle accidents
- Fatal motorcycle collisions
- Boating accidents, including drowning incidents
- Death on another’s property caused by negligent premises owners
As with any personal injury case, wrongful death claims and lawsuits must establish several important legal elements in order to prove negligence and liability, and secure a recovery of damages. These elements involve proving the following:
- A legal duty existed – Wrongful death claims, like other cases of personal injury, must first establish that a legal duty existed between the at-fault party and the deceased. This legal duty may exist in various ways, depending on the circumstances. For example, all drivers have a duty to safely operate their vehicles in order to avoid causing preventable harm to others, premises owners must take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their property and address potential hazards, and product manufacturers have a duty to ensure their products do not pose unreasonable risks due to defects that could have been prevented.
- A breach of duty occurred – Proving a breach of duty often means proving negligence. When a driver negligently chooses to get behind the wheel while impaired by drugs or alcohol, for instance, they explicitly fail to uphold their duty of safely operating a motor vehicle.
- Causation – Proving how a defendant breached their legal duty is only part of an effective claim. Victims, which include families who bring wrongful death actions, must further prove that the breach of duty more likely than not caused their loved one’s death. This “more likely than not” legal standard is a lower burden of proof than what is used in criminal cases, and it can be met when supporting evidence clearly shows that had a defendant not acted negligently – such as if they chose to drive sober rather than impaired – death could have been prevented.
- Damages – Families will have a valid case for compensation when they can further demonstrate that they suffered damages as a result of their loved one’s death. Depending on the facts involved, these damages can include various economic losses (i.e. medical expenses, lost wages caused by missing work, and funeral expenses) and non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship or emotional support, and other emotional damages). In cases of wrongful death, families may also seek recoveries of lost future damages, including the lost financial support their loved one would have provided.
It is important for families to remember that wrongful death cases are civil legal proceedings conducted independently from any criminal case that may be brought against a wrongdoer – such as charges for manslaughter against drivers who killed a victim while driving drunk. Although criminal cases hold wrongdoers accountable for committing crimes, they are not a viable source for compensation. This is why victims must pursue these types of personal injury cases in the civil justice system.
At Caraway Injury Attorneys, our Greater Sacramento Area lawyers are passionate about helping victims and families during some of the most difficult times in their lives. By bringing your case to the attention of our caring and compassionate legal team, we can help you better understand your right to pursue a wrongful death case and what we can do to secure the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us for a FREE consultation.