The death of a loved one due to the negligence of another is an emotionally devastating experience. Family members and loved ones must understand their rights in such cases, as they may be entitled to compensation from those responsible. This article will provide an overview of wrongful death claims arising from premises liability, including what constitutes a valid claim, potential defendants, and the damages available.
Defining Premises Liability and Wrongful Death
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligent or intentional act of another person or entity. This type of death can be caused by any number of things, including medical malpractice, product liability, an automobile accident, or workplace negligence. To successfully prove a wrongful death case in court, family members must prove that the defendant was negligent in some way and that this negligence resulted in their loved one’s death.
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability law holds property owners responsible for injuries visitors suffer while on their property. It applies to private and public properties such as residences, businesses, stores, parks, sidewalks, and roadways. To succeed in a premises liability case, family members must prove that the property owner was negligent in maintaining the location safely. This means they failed to repair known safety hazards or warn visitors about potential dangers on their property.
Common Scenarios in Premises Liability Wrongful Death Cases
If you are a family member of someone who died due to the negligence of another, your first instinct is likely to seek justice. One way to do this is by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Sometimes, premises liability may be involved. Understanding how premises liability wrongful death cases work helps to know the common scenarios and how they can lead to a personal injury claim.
Slip and Fall Accidents
One of the most common types of premises liability wrongful death cases involves slip and fall accidents. These types of accidents occur when an owner fails to maintain their property safely or warn people about potential hazards on the property. For a slip and fall case to be successfully pursued in court as wrongful death, there must have been negligence by the property owner or manager that led directly to the death.
Another type of premises liability wrongful death case involves negligent security. This occurs when a person has been injured or killed due to inadequate security measures at a business or residential location. In these cases, it must be proven that the lack of proper security was negligent or intentionally put into place by the property owner with disregard for safety. For example, if an apartment complex failed to install proper lighting in dark hallways leading up to individual units, this could lead to a lawsuit if someone were harmed.
Lastly, inadequate maintenance can lead to premises liability and wrongful death cases if someone is harmed due to poorly maintained equipment or other dangerous conditions on a property. For instance, if an elevator was not properly maintained and someone was injured while using it due solely to a lack of upkeep, this could lead to a claim against the property owner or manager responsible for maintaining it.
Elements to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim Arising From Premises Liability
Elements of Negligence
Negligence is the first element that must be proved in any premises liability case. To prove negligence, you must show that the property owner or manager had a duty of care towards the deceased, breached this duty, and caused their death due to this breach. Additionally, damages must have been suffered by the victim’s family due to the breach of duty.
The second element is cause-in-fact, which means that you must prove that the breach of duty was the direct cause of your loved one’s death. In other words, if you have evidence they died because of the property owner or manager’s negligence, then you have satisfied this element.
The third element to prove in these cases is damage. In premises liability cases involving wrongful death claims, damages may include medical expenses related to your loved one’s injuries before their passing and funeral costs associated with their burial or cremation. Family members may also receive compensation for the loss of companionship and emotional distress resulting from the tragedy.
Identifying Potential Defendants
Several parties could be liable for the victim’s death in a wrongful death lawsuit arising from premises liability. These include the owner of the property, an agent of the owner (such as a manager), or any third party who may have been responsible for the maintenance or upkeep of the property at the time of the accident. This could include contractors hired by the owner or even tenants who live on the premises if they were found to be negligent in maintaining their part of the property.
In such a case, the defendant(s) could also include manufacturers of defective products used on or near the premises if it was determined that these products caused or contributed to your loved one’s death. For example, if someone was electrocuted due to faulty wiring on a piece of equipment, the manufacturer and property owner could be liable for their negligence.
The Role Of Comparative Negligence In Premises Liability Wrongful Death Cases
In legal terms, comparative negligence is a defense used by defendants to argue that their responsibility for an incident has been reduced due to another person’s actions. This could play a role in a wrongful death case if it is determined that the deceased was partly responsible for their death due to their negligent behavior. The degree of responsibility assigned to each party is measured by percentage and can range from 0% (no fault) to 100% (full fault). Depending on each party’s percentage of fault, they will either be held fully liable or partially liable for any damages awarded.
How Does Comparative Negligence Affect Wrongful Death Cases?
Comparative negligence can significantly reduce a family’s compensation after losing a loved one in a premises liability wrongful death case. For example, if it is determined that both parties were 50% at fault, then only half of the damages awarded would be paid out. It is essential for families seeking compensation after losing a loved one in this type of situation to understand this concept and how it affects their case.
Note that in California, a person can be found to be over 50% at fault for their accident injury or death and still sue for damages.
Compensation and Damages Available to the Victim’s Family
The type of damages available in a wrongful death claim varies depending on the specifics of each case but generally includes both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages relate to financial losses such as lost wages or medical expenses incurred before the victim’s death. Non-economic damages are those related to intangible losses such as pain, suffering, or loss of companionship. There are also punitive damages. These are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions are determined to have been particularly malicious, but they aren’t common.
The Importance of Working With a Skilled Wrongful Death Attorney
Experience With Premises Liability Cases
One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a wrongful death attorney is their experience level with premises liability cases. Premises liability law is complex and nuanced, and having an attorney who understands all its intricacies could be the difference between success and failure in your case. Make sure any lawyer you are considering has experience handling cases similar to yours.
Choose Someone Who Specializes in Personal Injury Law
Choose an attorney with experience successfully handling personal injury cases. You wouldn’t go to a dentist for a broken leg, don’t pick a family friend who specializes in family law for a wrongful death claim. You need someone who knows California and federal laws regarding wrongful death and premises liability claims.
Understanding of Your Situation
The final factor to consider when choosing a wrongful death attorney is whether they understand your case’s unique circumstances. You want someone who will listen carefully to your story, treat you respectfully, and provide clear advice on how best to proceed after hearing your situation’s details. It’s also helpful if they have experience litigating cases if your case goes to trial.
Contact The Dominguez Firm
The Dominguez Firm has over 35 years of experience, a 96%* success rate, and has recovered over $1 billion* for clients. Families who have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence have the right to seek justice and compensation for their loss. Their personal injury attorneys can help.
Call (800)818-1818 for your free consultation today.