How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim your family may be able to bring in Southern California if someone else is responsible for causing a loved one’s death. While nothing can make up for a death in the family, holding a negligent party liable could provide justice and financial assistance to your family during this tough time. If you believe you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim, take concrete steps forward with help from a local wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles. Working with a lawyer from the beginning of your case can make the legal process simpler.
Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney
Do not wait until halfway through your case to bring in an experienced and knowledgeable wrongful death attorney. Search for a lawyer who specializes in wrongful death claims as soon as possible. You may make common mistakes when trying to handle a wrongful death claim alone, such as missing California’s statute of limitations or failing to provide enough information on your initial claim. Hiring a lawyer from the beginning could help you avoid these mistakes for a faster, more efficient and more successful claims process.
Determine if Wrongful Death Occurred
First, you will need to determine if what happened to your loved one constitutes wrongful death under your state’s definition of this tort. In California, a family can bring a wrongful death claim if it can prove that someone else’s negligence or wrongful act was the cause of the loved one’s fatal injury. You may have grounds for a negligence-based claim if four elements are true.
- The negligent party owed your loved one a duty of care.
- The party breached his or her duty of care.
- The party’s breach of duty caused your loved one’s injury.
- Your loved one (and your family) suffered damages due to the breach.
An attorney in Los Angeles can help you determine whether you have all the necessary elements to file a wrongful death claim. A thorough investigation into your loved one’s death and the surrounding circumstances could point to negligence, if applicable. A lawyer can also explain California’s specific wrongful death laws to you in more detail.
Find Out Who Can File
You will only be able to file a wrongful death claim in California if you are one of the privileged parties. Each state has different laws regarding who has the legal right to file a wrongful death claim. In California, this right goes to the deceased person’s surviving spouse or domestic partner first, then to surviving children and issue of deceased children second. If these parties do not exist, the next party entitled to file a wrongful death claim in California is anyone with a legal right to the decedent’s property based on the rules of intestate succession. You may need to appoint a personal representative to file the claim on your family’s behalf.
Prepare Evidence and Documentation
You can build a stronger claim to damages for the wrongful death of a loved one by collecting evidence connected to the accident or fatal injury. A lawyer can help you with this task. Evidence may include police reports, accident reports, medical records, a coroner’s report, lost wages, photographs from the scene, eyewitness accounts and testimony from experts. Document the incident yourself as much as you can after the loss of a loved one. Then, bring what you find to an attorney in California for help building a case.
File Your Claim Before the Deadline
Once you have an attorney and all relevant information connected to your relative’s death, you will be ready to file the claims paperwork. You can obtain this paperwork from the civil courts in your county or an attorney can take care of it for you. You or your lawyer will need to fill out the paperwork completely, with information such as the defendant’s name and address, a description of the tort, and a list of damages you are claiming. You will need to file this paperwork with the correct court within two years of your loved one’s death or determination of the cause of death, in most cases. Work with a wrongful death lawyer in LA for help with each step of the claims process.