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How Do You Prove Wrongful Death? - The Larsen Firm

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

The loss of a family member is devastating, especially if your loved one tragically died because of another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. Your loved one might have left behind a spouse, children, domestic partner, grandchildren, or other relatives who have a right to file a wrongful death claim in California. If you find yourself in this position, you might wonder, How do you prove wrongful death?

Look no further than the wrongful death lawyers from The Larsen Firm to help you recover wrongful death damages. At The Larsen Firm, we are compassionate and caring, and we know how to prove wrongful death in California. What’s more: We get results. Our plaintiffs’ lawyers have recovered nearly $1 billion in damages for our clients over the years. We understand that no amount of money could ever replace your loved one. But we also know that holding those responsible for your loss accountable could help with closure and with getting the financial help you need to get your life back on track.

Proving Wrongful Death

California’s wrongful death law is complicated. The law only allows people who have a specific familial relationship with the deceased (decedent) to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The only people who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit are:

  • Spouses,
  • Children,
  • Domestic partners,
  • Grandchildren, or
  • Spouses, domestic partners, or other family members who could inherit according to the California law governing intestate succession, if the decedent dies without a will and has no surviving children.

Finally, a personal representative of the decedent’s estate can also file a suit. The suit will be for the benefit of the estate and not for the benefit of the personal representative. Therefore, the law does not entitle you to seek compensation if you do not have a relationship with the deceased as specified by the law.

The plaintiffs have the burden of proof in a wrongful death case. To win a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove four elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The elements of a wrongful death claim are:

  1. The defendant must owe the plaintiff a duty of care,
  2. The defendant must have breached that duty of care,
  3. The breach must have caused harm, and
  4. The harm must have resulted in financial or other losses.

We will discuss each element individually.

Proof of a Negligent Act

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to protect yourself or others from harm, and it can arise from an action or inaction. 

But all negligence claims begin with a duty of care. The defendant must owe the victim a duty of care, or negligence cannot be found to exist. However, it is worth noting that wrongful death cases can also be based on recklessness or intentional misconduct.

Breach of the Duty of Care

To establish negligence, you must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care to your loved one. The law uses the “reasonable person” standard to determine if the defendant breached their duty of care. An act or a failure to act is negligent if a reasonably careful person in those same circumstances would have behaved differently. 

For example, motorists owe all other people on the road a duty of care. Traffic laws establish the standard of care when driving, so failing to follow traffic laws would constitute a breach of the duty of care.


The breach of duty has to cause the death to prove a wrongful death claim. This can be legally tricky, and you will almost certainly need a well-qualified wrongful death lawyer to help establish causation. Your attorney knows how to gather the right evidence to persuade the jury that your loved one died because the defendant breached their duty of care.

Wrongful Death Damages

To prove negligence, you must show that the defendant’s breach caused harm, and the harm caused monetary and other losses to the victim. These losses are called damages. Wrongful death damages fall into two categories: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages refer to direct monetary losses like:

  • Financial support to the family in terms of salary or wages,
  • Financial benefits and gifts to the family,
  • Funeral expenses, and
  • Loss of household services the deceased would have provided had they lived.

A jury can infer the value of each based on the evidence presented at trial. 

Non-economic damages are less tangible and include:

  • Lost love and companionship,
  • The loss of sexual relations for spouses or domestic partners, and
  • The loss of training and guidance the deceased would have provided for children or grandchildren.

Non-economic damage calculations are often complicated because they are not based on easily quantifiable receipts or invoices. Your lawyer can help accurately assess what your case is worth. 

Time Is of the Essence

It’s important to know that you have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. However, you could have up to three years if your loved one died from medical malpractice. 

There may be exceptions that could apply to your situation. Your attorney can assess the proper amount of time you have to file a claim. 

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death? We Can Help.

At The Larsen Firm, we are committed to finding justice for victims and their families. With over 40 years of experience and a 99% success rate, we have what it takes to help you find justice. We offer free consultations so you can ask us questions without any obligation on your part. Call The Larsen Firm at 855-508-9565 to talk with one of our dedicated attorneys.

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