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Filing a wrongful death lawsuit and recovering damages

Many Californians cannot fathom losing a loved one unexpectedly in a tragic accident. Unfortunately, these things do sometimes happen. An unexpected loss can happen under numerous different circumstances. However, in some cases, after unexpectedly losing a loved one the surviving family members may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against another individual or entity.

A wrongful death action is appropriate when a person dies due to the misconduct or negligence of another party. This negligence may include any numbers of actions or behaviors including medical malpractices, criminal behavior, airplane or automobile collision, death during supervised activities or exposure to hazardous substances.

Although there are likely many family members impacted by the wrongful death of a loved one, every state has regulations regarding who is able to file the actual wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, only the personal representative of the estate can file it.

When a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, there are certain elements that must be met in order for the family to successfully recover damages. Other than the death of someone, the death must be caused by someone else's negligence, surviving family members must be facing financially as a result and the appointment of a personal representative of the estate are some of the elements essential to filing a claim.

If all of these elements are met, the family may be able to recover damages. The most common type of damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit are pecuniary damages. These damages cover financial injury and courts have defined them to include the loss of support, lost prospect of inheritance, loss of services, medical expenses and funeral expenses. These damages usually need to be fair and, if awarded, will include interest from the time of death.

It is important for those that have lost a loved one to understand that there is a timeline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Therefore, it is very important that, when losing a loved one, the surviving family members take action as quickly as possible to obtain their recovery.

Source: FindLaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on August 3, 2014

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