Pleasanton Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful Death Information
If you've recently lost a spouse, child, or other close relative in an accident or illness, and you believe that some other person or company might have been responsible (or partly responsible) for what happened, you may sue that liable party in court for "wrongful death." This article will introduce key concepts about this kind of legal action and connect you with a crucial resource to provide you with personalized help.
Wrongful Death Basics
Whether the person who killed your relative or loved one meant to inflict injury or not is not relevant. As long as the person or institution acted in a careless, reckless, or negligent manner - or intended to cause your relative harm - you may be able to bring a wrongful death action. For instance, say a truck driver talking on his CB failed to watch the road; as a result, he sideswiped a motorcyclist and caused the biker's death. Although the trucker clearly did not intend to cause any harm, he acted negligently; therefore, the motorcyclist's survivors could bring a suit.
If the person who caused the death faces criminal charges, you don't lose your right to a wrongful death suit. For instance, say a gang member killed your son in a late night fight at a club. The murderer will face a serious criminal trial brought by the state or federal government. But you can separately bring a wrongful death action against the assailant in civil court.
In civil court, your burden of proof is much lower. In a criminal case, for instance, prosecutors need to show the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt"; whereas, in a civil case, prosecutors merely need to show the defendant's guilt beyond "a preponderance of the evidence."
The wrongful death damages you might seek can include financial damages, such as money to make up for the deceased's lost income and medical/retirement benefits. You also can collect non-economic damages for things like pain, suffering and anguish; loss of companionship and consort; and loss of guidance and nurturing. Lastly, in certain situations, you can sue for punitive damages for exceptionally aggressive, negligent, or careless actions.
The universe of potential defendants in a wrongful death action may be bigger than you might realize. Obviously, the person most immediately responsible for the death (or injury that led to the death) should be evaluated as a potential defendant. But other parties may be sued as well - even for only contributing in a minor way to the accident. For instance, let's reconsider the truck driver example above. Say the truck's braking system failed during the accident. If that happened, then, in addition to suing the trucker, you might also sue the company responsible for maintaining the truck's braking system in good working order.
Given all the "moving parts" and complications of the typical wrongful death action, it's generally recommended that victims work closely with reliable and experienced wrongful death attorneys. The law firm of Van Der Walde & Associates can help you. Call (925) 452-4710 to set up your free consultation.