Wrongful death happens when the negligent actions of an individual result in the death of another person. The decedent's surviving family members are entitled to file a wrongful death claim in order to recover monetary damages for the losses that were incurred as a result of their loved one's death.
It is not the same as the usual negligent lawsuits that are filed after an accident happens because in this case, the actual victim can no longer take legal action.
Under the common law, which is comprised of legal principles that was passed in the United States hundreds of years ago, it should not exist because there will be no way to compensate the victim for his losses. In addition, it prohibits the victim's surviving dependents from recovering monetary damages from the person who is responsible in the fatal accident.
Fortunately, states have created their own wrongful death law during the recent years. These laws enabled surviving dependents to sue the person at fault so that they can recover financial damages from him.
The wrongful death statutes that are being enforced today have these elements:
- The victim's death resulted from the defendant's conduct
- The defendant is liable in the fatal accident
- The decedent has surviving dependents like his children and spouse
- The surviving dependents suffered from monetary losses due to the victim's death
If these elements were established, the victim' surviving dependents may be entitled to recover monetary damages. It will be the job of the court to place an amount on a human's life, though money cannot completely compensate a person's death.
The court may face a bigger problem when determining the amount of damages if an elderly or child was killed in the accident.
The death of an elderly might only produce a little amount of monetary damages because his working ability or earning potential may already have been diminished due to old age, meaning he does not contribute much when it comes to financial matters. In addition, the court may believe that the children of seniors do not need much guidance, nurturing, or support from them.
When a child dies due to the negligence of others, the court will look at the following factors when determining the amount of damages that will be provided to his surviving family members:
- Earning potential
- Life expectancy and age
- State of health
- His relationship with his surviving family members
If you have questions regarding the different issues involved in wrongful death claims, do not hesitate to consult a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney.