The sudden, unexpected death of a family member is never easy to accept. It is even more difficult to accept a loved ones death if it appears someone’s negligence caused, or contributed to, that death. If you have recently lost a family member and you believe that someone else is responsible, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. While no amount of money can bring back your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit will hold the wrongdoer responsible and may provide you and your family with much needed financial support.
By definition, a wrongful death is a death that is caused by the willful or negligent act or omission of another person or persons. In San Diego, a wrongful death can be caused by the intentional act of another person. For example, if someone murdered your family member that would give rise to criminal charges but can also form the basis of a wrongful death civil lawsuit. More often, however, wrongful death lawsuits in San Diego are based on negligence or carelessness of another.
Negligence is a legal term that essentially means fault; however, it is essential to have a more in-depth understanding of the term “negligence” when attempting to determine if a wrongful death has occurred. Accidents do happen. Not all deaths are the result of negligence as the law defines that term. Negligence requires four basic elements:
- Duty of care owed to the victim from the defendant
- A breach of that duty of care
By way of illustration, consider a death caused by a drunk driver. Courts have long held that a motorist operating a vehicle on a public roadway owes a duty of care to everyone else on the roadway. If the motorist is intoxicated, and that intoxication causes the motorist to lose control of the vehicle and crash into another vehicle, that is likely a breach of the duty of care. If the collision caused the death of an occupant in another vehicle that would likely be considered a wrongful death in San Diego.
Whether or not negligence caused a death, and therefore the death was a wrongful death, is highly fact specific. Only an experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your family member’s death and offer and opinion as to whether there is a basis for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in San Diego.