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How can one prove a wrongful death claim?

Losing a loved one in an accident may be one of the hardest things a person in California ever has to deal with. Some accidents are truly unpreventable, but the reality is that many personal injury accidents are caused by someone else's negligence and could have been avoided. When a person loses a loved one in a personal injury accident, they may want to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties responsible for their loved one's death.

It is important to remember that not all family members are entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Typically, in California, you must be a spouse, domestic partner, child or grandchild of the decedent. A personal representative of the decedent's estate will bring a claim on behalf of the decedent's survivors.

To establish a wrongful death claim, one will need to prove that a person died due to someone else's negligence. The death itself should be easy to prove, but it can be difficult to establish negligence. One will have to establish that the negligent party owed a duty to the person who died, but breached that duty. One will also have to show that the breach of duty caused the death. One must also have suffered a monetary loss as a result of the decedent's death. Witness testimony, expert testimony, police reports, photographs and video of the accident or the scene of the accident and other evidence can be helpful to establish negligence.

Once a family has decided to pursue a legal claim, the personal representative of the decedent's estate must file a lawsuit on their behalf. If their claim is successful, they may recover pecuniary -- that is, financial -- damages to cover the loss of support, funeral expenses, medical expenses and other costs. While no amount of money will ease the pain of losing someone one cared about, financial recovery can allow a family to grieve instead of worrying about paying bills.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed May 7, 2018

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