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Wrongful death claims effectively take the place of personal injury claims when victims do not survive their injuries. In some cases, a family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim without realizing it at first.
When the cause of death is not immediately determinable, the family and friends of the deceased should fully investigate any and all possibilities and know how to spot the signs of wrongful death. Even it takes time to determine the cause of a wrongful death, most states uphold the discovery rule and will toll the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims until the date the surviving family discovers the cause of a wrongful death.
When one party’s negligence contributes to or directly causes the death of a person, the responsible party bears liability for wrongful death. If you suspect a loved one died due to another party’s negligence in California, a Orange County wrongful death attorney can help you investigate the cause of death and determine your best legal options for recovery. To succeed with a wrongful death claim for negligence, the plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence.
Proving negligence will require a thorough investigation into the death in question.
If you recently lost a loved one unexpectedly in an accident or due to an illness with uncertain origins, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim if you can determine the cause of death. For example, if your loved one seemed fine and then a month later passed away from a serious illness, check your local records to see if other people in the area met similar fates.
If you notice a pattern of similar deaths in a relatively small area, this could indicate the people in the area face toxic exposure from a local factory, refinery, or other industrial facility. This would place fault for the wrongful death on the company causing the dangerous exposure.
If your loved one died due to the use of an unreasonably dangerous or defective consumer product, liability for the death may fall to the product manufacturer. Check for any recent news about a recall for the product in question or do some online research to find out if any class-action lawsuits are already in progress against the manufacturer.
Mistakes sometimes happen in the medical field, and a death on an operating table may not always constitute wrongful death. Medicine is an inherently uncertain field and doctors and other professionals see patients pass away very often. However, the hospital or surgical center where a sudden death occurred must provide a reasonable and detailed explanation of how and why the death occurred. If the hospital cannot establish some kind of medically sound precedent as to why the death was unavoidable, it is possible the death resulted from malpractice and therefore constitutes a wrongful death.
The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is always a traumatic experience for the surviving family, and uncertainty surrounding such a death tends to make matters even more challenging for survivors. If you recently lost a loved one unexpectedly and are unsure whether the death qualifies as a wrongful death, a wrongful death attorney can help you investigate the matter and determine whether any parties bear liability.