Understanding The Wrongful Death Claim

Claims of wrongful death are authorized by statute in one form or another, in all the states of the union. Understanding how it all works is another story. In California, they are brought up against a person/entity that caused the death of another human being. Family members of the decedent usually bring up wrongful death claims in a civil action under the existing statute.

Common Law Rights Distinguished

As per common law, a deceased person was not able to bring about a lawsuit, and this resulted in a loophole in which activities that caused a person to suffer injury results in civil sanction but when death occurs from activities that did not lead to civil sanctions. (Learn More.)

The Preponderance of The Evidence or Reasonable Doubt?

The prevailing standard of proof in most U.S. courts is usually preponderance of the evidence versus beyond a reasonable doubt or clear and convincing. In the United Kingdom and Australia, it is on the balance of probabilities. So this is why it’s frequently simpler for families to seek justice against a person responsible for the loss of life of their family member through tort, rather than a criminal prosecution.

Criminal Versus Civil

However, both of these actions aren’t equally exclusive. The state can criminally prosecute a person that has caused the loss of life. So regardless of manslaughter, murder, criminal homicide, or a different theory jail-time is there. But you can also sue the person in civil courts for the action of wrongful death.

Thus, when a business (not a person) has caused the loss of life to another person, the only available recourse is wrongful death. For instance, families have brought lawsuits against tobacco companies. Some represented by Michael Piuze have won for the wrongful death caused their customers.

Historical Rights of Recovery

In a majority of common law jurisdictions there was no right of recovery of civil damages for a killing. Hence, the claims died with the victims. So actions for wrongful death became strictly statutory. Thus, there has been a right recognized in some jurisdictions for the recovery of wrongful death. Also, no current public policy exists against permitting compensation for wrongful death. Applying the principles of common law to decisions is how this gets done. Filling in loopholes gets used in jurisdictions identifying common law rights to recover.  So statutes rely on the old formulas under common law for situations of wrongful death.

Many jurisdictions have enacted laws to produce a right to this type of recovery. The tort laws of each state get used to determine the issue of liability. The foundation of wrongful death liability is English. (see Fatal Accidents Act of 1846, otherwise known as Lord Campbell’s Act.) A person can have a waiver signed by participants. So this provides a degree of protection against lawsuits of wrongful death. Speak to Ehline Law Wrongful Death Lawyer to learn more. 888.400.9721.

About Author


Ehline Michael
Michael Ehline is a prolific blogger on California and international tort law. He has been a guest on CNN, discussed in major news publications like Forbes, Circle of Legal Trust, Personal Injury Warriors, and International Cruise Victims. He has lobbied congress on behalf of injured consumers, served as a United States Marine, and won millions of dollars for his clients. This blog discusses Ehline's insights and musings on all aspects of negligence law as it relates to all things "accidents." Ehline can be reached at (213) 596-9642.