Proving negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2021 | in Personal Injury |

Wrongful death lawsuits in California and around the country are usually based on the civil law tort of negligence. To prevail in court, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death action must show that their case meets the four key elements of a negligence claim. They must prove that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care and failed to meet that duty. They must then convince the court that the victim died as a direct consequences of the defendant’s negligent actions and they suffered damages as a result.

Duty of care

Wrongful death lawsuits are often filed by the family members of car accident victims or patients who died because a doctor or medical facility made a mistake. In these cases, establishing that a duty of care existed may be relatively straightforward as motorists should operate their vehicles in a safe manner and physicians should do all that they can to help their patients. Proving that a duty of care was breached can be more challenging in a medical malpractice lawsuit as it involves showing that the treatment provided did not meet generally accepted health care standards.


In a wrongful death action, causation is the direct link between the negligent act and the death of the victim, and it can be the most difficult element of negligence to prove. This is especially true in medical malpractice cases when the victim was already gravely ill when the mistake was made.

The burden of proof

Wrongful death plaintiffs do not have the same burden of proof as criminal prosecutors who must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. When their clients wish to hold somebody responsible for the death of a loved one, experienced personal injury attorneys could explain that their case will be determined based on the preponderance of the evidence. This means that if their lawsuit goes to court, they must only convince the jury that their allegations are more likely true than false.