The purpose of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is for surviving family members to seek damages after losing a loved one due to someone else's negligence. Sometimes, there is hesitation about whether or not to pursue legal action, especially after undergoing the traumatic event of the untimely death of someone dear. Here, we will discuss the various factors that impact the chances of winning a wrongful death suit.
For immediate assistance on the matter or to address concerns about your wrongful death claim, please feel free to contact Promenade Accident Attorneys. Our phone and in-person consultations are free of charge.Call Now
Factors That Influence the Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit
Under California law, any injury caused by someone else’s negligence or “wrongful act” may be compensated to select family members or other specified individuals in a wrongful death case.
However, the case can be influenced by various factors that ultimately affect the odds of winning a wrongful death case, such as the following.
- It must be proven that the other party’s negligence is responsible for the victim's death.
- The person filing the wrongful death claim must be an eligible family member or a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
- The wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within the two-year statute of limitations.
- The damages being claimed in the wrongful death suit for compensation must be proven.
- The victim shared a degree of fault in causing the fatal accident.
- The plaintiff will or will not be working with a wrongful death attorney.
The Odds of Winning Wrongful Death Lawsuits
There is not a definitive answer to how likely it is to win a wrongful death suit…
However, data indicates this: According to a study by the US Department of Justice, only 4% to 5% of personal injury cases (which include wrongful death claims) make it all the way to trial. This means that insurance copmanies are more likely to settle than proceed with a trial, as this can become very costly for them.
Of the cases that do go to trial, approximately 50% result in a win–but, again, the success rate will vary based on multiple factors. Another telling statistic is that car accident cases are among the most commonly successful types of personal injury cases, with plaintiffs winning 41% of verdicts in California.
How the Outcome of Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are Determined
Wrongful death settlements will vary based on the deceased's age, income, health, and initial life expectancy.
Other determining factors include the deceased's degree of fault or liability, the emotional and financial impact of loss on the surviving family members, and whether such losses can be proven.
Similar to personal injury cases, families filing wrongful death claims would be entitled to the same damages that the victim would have received had he or she survived the accident.
These losses can be compensated if it can be factually determined that the defendant's negligence caused the accident.
Proving Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases
In order to secure a favorable outcome, the four elements of negligence must be established. Each serves a vital function in building a strong case and recovering a full and fair wrongful death settlement. The four elements are:
- Duty of Care: The defendant had a legal obligation to act with a reasonable degree of care that would not cause harm to others. For example, drivers are responsible for following traffic regulations and not endanger other drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant did not fulfill the duty of care. This can occur in various ways, like drunk driving or running a red light. Evidence must be presented proving that the breach was made.
- Causation: The failure to fulfill the duty of care caused the accident, ultimately resulting in the victim’s death. It must be indicated that the fatal accident would not occurred if the defendant did not breach the duty of care.
- Damages: It must be demonstrated that economic damages and/or non-economic damages were suffered as a result of the victim’s death. This may consist of financial, emotional, and psychological damages.
Because of the value of wrongful death cases, insurance companies will be vigilant in reducing the amount of owed compensation. However, an experienced wrongful death attorney is skilled in helping clients with their wrongful death suits, improving their chances of recovering maximum damages.
The Role of Evidence for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The evidence in any personal injury case must prove the defendant's liability in being responsible for the fatal accident. The stronger the evidence, the more likely it will be to recover compensation and win a wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death lawyer can influence the likelihood of a favorable outcome by obtaining crucial evidence, such as witness accounts, expert testimonies, medical records, police reports, paystubs, and other documentation to prove the liability of the other party.
By utilizing this evidence, an experienced legal team will create a picture of the events leading up to the fatal event and demonstrate the negligent behavior of the defendant.
Available Damages Based on Evidence
The awarded compensation is based on the financial losses incurred and the emotional trauma suffered after a family member's death. This may include:
- Medical expenses: all of the costs associated with the medical care leading up to the victim’s passing, including ambulance transportation, emergency services, hospital stays, surgeries, nursing care, and more
- Financial losses: income and work benefits that would have been earned and provided, including lost wages, salary, commission, bonuses, retirement, and health insurance
- Funeral expenses and burial expenses: costs of services, including cremation, the burial, and cemetery fees
- Loss of companionship and protection: emotional and practical support, such as love, affection, guidance, and financial support
- Loss of parental guidance and instruction: the loss of a parent's guidance and support in raising children, such as transportation and childcare
- A family’s pain and suffering: the emotional distress experienced due to the loss of a loved one, such as grief, sorrow, and anxiety
Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In California, select individuals have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, including a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children.
If there is no immediate surviving family, individuals who could have inherited property from the victim, like parents, siblings, or legal guardians (if the victim’s parents are deceased) may file a legal claim.
Other eligible individuals who can seek compensation are financial dependents, like stepchildren. More examples include a putative spouse, which is someone who was under the belief that he or she was in a lawful marriage; their children are also eligible.
Statute of Limitations in Downey, CA
If a party is eligible to file a valid wrongful death claim, they must do so within the statute of limitations. This is a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, along with other personal injury claims, referred to as the statute of limitations.
In California, the amount of time given is typically two years from the date of the victim's death, not the date of the accident.
However, there are exemptions. If the case is not filed within the allotted timeframe, the surviving family members may lose the right to seek wrongful death damages.
A Downey Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Offer Aid
Each case is unique and requires careful evaluation by an experienced wrongful death lawyer who can advise legal options, as well as the chance of success. If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, please consult with our personal injury law firm, Promenade Accident Attorneys.
Allow one of our wrongful death attorneys to help you seek the compensation you and your family are entitled to. Our compassionate legal team will keep your rights protected and persevere your interests.
When you feel that you are ready to begin discussing the event, please contact us. The consultation is free, and we are here to provide support during this difficult time.Free Consultation