In an event where a person dies due to some other person’s (or company’s) fault, survivors or family members can bring a civil lawsuit (also known as a wrongful death lawsuit) against the responsible party.
Why would someone want to sue for wrongful death?
The point of civil action such as in a case of a car or a motorcycle crash is to be compensated for the survivors’ loss. Such loss can include lost wages and funeral expenses that create a situation of financial hardship (economic damages).
Loss of companionship, love and affection (otherwise collectively known as loss of consortium) is also a reason for seeking compensation. Since damages suffered here cannot be assigned a specific monetary value, they are known as non-economic damages.
Who can pursue civil action for wrongful death?
Parties who suffer damage as a result of decedent’s death can sue for wrongful death. Such parties may include (depending on the state):
- Immediate family members – spouses, children, adopted children and parents of unmarried children.
- Other family members – for example, in cases where a grandparent is raising a child. (in some states)
- Domestic partners, putative spouse, children of putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents. A putative marriage is a marriage that appears to be valid (entered into in good faith), but technically isn’t. For example: a couple enters marriage where one partner is still legally married to another person without realizing it.
- See CCP 377.60 for complete list of parties who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against another.
Who may be sued for wrongful death?
Civil action for death in a car crash can be brought against a number of different persons, companies, government agencies and employees of such agencies and companies. It is best to speak with an attorney to determine the right entity to sue.
Defendants may include:
- Driver who’s negligence resulted in the accident.
- Manufacturer of a car part that failed to function properly resulting in the accident.
- An auto company that knew about a defective part but chose to ignore it.
- An installer of an auto part who failed to perform an adequate job.
- A government agent responsible for providing warnings and notifying of known hazards.
Note: some government agencies and their employees may be immune to wrongful death lawsuits.
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you lost someone and wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should talk to a competent attorney before doing anything else.
Wrongful death lawsuits can get very complicated and costly, especially if pursued incorrectly. It is easy for a person or an incompetent attorney to make mistakes in the process, often resulting in unsuccessful lawsuits.