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How is Wrongful Death Classified?

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You’ve probably heard of the term “wrongful death” before, but you might not know exactly what constitutes it. Wrongful death is oftentimes classified as a type of personal injury claim since the claimant is trying to seek compensation for damages caused by another person’s negligence. In order to more fully define what wrongful death is, it’s important to separate it from what it’s not.


Wrongful death is not murder. Murder is the result of intentional malice, as in when one person sets out to kill or cause the death of another person. It’s commonly called homicide in criminal court, and people accused of murder are prosecuted to the full extent of the law in criminal court. The goal of the criminal court is to obtain justice due to the person who chose to end another person’s life. Criminal court, however, does not deal with awarding damages to the victim’s family or loved ones.

Wrongful Death

This is where wrongful death comes in. Regardless of whether the victim was killed intentionally or unintentionally, a wrongful death lawsuit falls under civil court as a civil matter. It’s not dealing with criminally prosecuting someone. Rather, it’s dealing with going to an attorney if your loved one was killed in an accident and trying to sue someone for loss of life, happiness, wages and so on.

Wrongful Deaths Can Be Accidents

Wrongful death suits are oftentimes total accidents. For instance, suppose a man gets into a bar fight with another person. He hits his opponent over the head with a beer bottle, not intending to kill him but just to hurt him. The man hit with the bottle goes to the hospital with a concussion and brain injuries that ultimately lead to his death. Even though the wielder of the bottle didn’t mean to, he could be sued for wrongful death.

Likewise, if you have a swimming pool that isn’t properly covered and gated off according to local laws and a child falls into your pool and drowns, then you could be sued for wrongful death, whether you knew about the incident or not.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits Separate From Criminal Cases

It’s important to note that wrongful death suits occur completely separate from criminal cases. A wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles will operate totally differently from a criminal lawyer. The burden of proof required for each of them is totally different. Criminal cases generally require a high burden of proof in order for the defendant to be found guilty whereas wrongful death cases only require proof that the defendant was at least 51% at fault for the death in question.

The outcome of a criminal case doesn’t have any bearing on a wrongful death suit and vice versa. They are handled by two totally separate courts and are supposed to fall under two totally different sets of laws. That doesn’t mean that a criminal case that’s received a lot of media coverage won’t necessarily help to sway the opinions of the jurors in a wrongful death case that goes to trial because it does indeed happen.


That’s one of the reasons why most defendants in a wrongful death case will usually try to settle outside the courtroom if at all possible. Usually, everyone wants to avoid having to go through a messy court litigation process if at all possible, especially if the public opinion has already been greatly swayed by the media. A good Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer will be able to negotiate the most favorable settlement for his or her client. A wrongful death attorney in LA has the skills and resources to work with the other party’s legal representatives and come to a settlement that benefits his or her clients, and in cases where that can’t be achieved, a good Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney will be willing to fight aggressively for your wrongful death claim Los Angeles in court. A personal injury attorney knows the laws surrounding wrongful death suits, and he or she knows how much you’re entitled to under the law. They’ll help advise you so that you don’t accept any ludicrously low offers when you are entitled to way more.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The laws governing wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state, but generally only the next of kin, such a spouse or the children of the deceased person may file a lawsuit. Usually, the spouse may file a wrongful death suit, but if there was no spouse or if the spouse is no longer living, then the children my come forward and file one. If there are no living children, then it could fall to the grandchildren, depending upon the state you live in. In order for the defendant to have to pay wrongful death damages, the court must find that the acts or omission of acts by the defendant led directly to the deceased’s death or led to a series of events that naturally led to the death.

What Kinds Of Damages Can You Be Compensated For?

Usually, you can expect to be compensated for any medical expenses the deceased incurred as a result of any medical treatment, funeral expenses, restitution for any future earnings that the deceased would have made and been able to provide his or her family had he or she not been untimely killed, and compensation for grief and emotional trauma.

How Does Negligence Factor In?

Negligence is a huge factor in many wrongful death cases. Negligence is the failure to exercise the proper amount of care needed to prevent harm to others. Negligence can be difficult to prove, but it is key to building criminal cases sometimes. For instance, if the case above where a child falls into a pool, the case would probably be negligent, so murder charges probably wouldn’t apply. In the case of the bar fight, the charges probably wouldn’t be negligent, but it could be ruled an accidental death so the defendant could be prosecuted criminally in addition to civilly.

Contact a lawyer if you think you have a wrongful death claim Los Angeles. A lawyer can evaluate your case and advise you on how to proceed.

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