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What are the Most Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims?

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Posted on July 10, 2023

The death of a loved one always feels wrong, but when the death was entirely preventable and only occurred due to someone else’s negligence, wrongdoing, or recklessness, the wrongful death of a family member is even more traumatic. What’s more, an unexpected death can cause significant financial hardship for those left behind, especially if the family member was a major financial contributor to their household.

When someone dies due to the carelessness of another party and can no longer speak for themselves, the surviving family members can choose to file a wrongful death claim. A successful wrongful death claim can help loved ones gain financial compensation to make up for the lost income and other costs associated with the family member’s death. While monetary compensation can’t erase the grief and anguish of the family, it can help ease the financial burden caused by the death so the family can focus on moving forward from their loss.

What is “Wrongful Death?”

According to California civil codes, “wrongful death” occurs when one person dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another person or business entity. Family members can file a wrongful death claim if their loved one died under circumstances in which the deceased person could have filed a personal injury claim had they survived their injury.

In order to succeed in a wrongful death claim, the family member who files the claim must be able to prove liability on the part of the person or entity at fault. Proving liability in a wrongful death claim requires demonstrating the following:

  • That the party at fault had a duty of care to take reasonable measures to prevent injury, such as a driver’s duty to follow traffic laws or a commercial property owner’s duty to correct safety hazards on their property
  • That the at-fault party breached this duty through an act of negligence, recklessness, or purposeful wrongdoing
  • That the breach of duty directly caused the family member’s death
  • That the surviving family suffered significant financial damages from the death as well as grief and emotional anguish

Only close family members such as a spouse, parent, adult child, or a designated family representative can bring a wrongful death claim on behalf a deceased family member.

Common Wrongful Death Claims in California

A wrongful death can occur in nearly any setting, from an accident on the highway due to a distracted driver, to a hotel pool with a slippery surface. When the death could have been prevented if only someone else hadn’t been negligent, the negligent party is responsible for damages—typically paid through the appropriate insurance policy. Common wrongful death claims in California and throughout the U.S. include deaths from:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective product injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Accidental drownings

Depending on the circumstances of the accident, liable parties in wrongful death claims must compensate the surviving family members through insurance policies such as their auto insurance, commercial property insurance, private property insurance, medical malpractice insurance, or other appropriate liability policy.

Most wrongful death claims settle out of court through negotiations with the insurance company. Only about 5% of wrongful death claims require litigation in court through a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact a San Diego wrongful death lawyer to discuss your case today.