Essential Terms to Know in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

successful wrongful death lawsuit | terms to know

Experiencing the sudden loss of a loved one is something no one should have to go through. If you believe your loved one’s passing was caused by a wrongful or negligent act, you may be considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit. These types of lawsuits help surviving family members recover compensation incurred due to the loss.

Navigating the legal terminology of a wrongful death case can be difficult. This glossary will help you understand the terms a wrongful death lawyer uses. Call Sierra Accident Lawyers for a free consultation at (909) 942-7632 to speak to a lawyer today. 


A beneficiary is someone who can receive compensation in a wrongful death claim. Beneficiaries are typically the next of kin of the deceased. California wrongful death law allows parents, siblings, a putative spouse and/or children, or a personal representative to file a wrongful death action if there is no surviving spouse or child of the deceased victim. 

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff, or the person filing the suit, must meet the burden of proof. The standard of proof is different in wrongful death cases versus criminal cases. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must prove the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, the plaintiff must prove the case by a preponderance of evidence. 


To prove wrongful death, the plaintiff must establish four elements: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Causation means the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s wrongful act was the proximate cause of their loved one’s death. 


Damages are the monetary compensation needed to make the injured party whole again. In civil lawsuits, they are generally divided into economic and non-economic categories. 

Economic damages in a wrongful death lawsuit represent the victim’s family member’s actual losses, including funeral and burial expenses. Non-economic damages are intangible losses that include loss of companionship and financial support. 

In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the defendant for their actions. 

Duty of Care 

To win a wrongful death suit, you must first show that the defendant owed a duty of care to your loved one. In general, an individual is expected to behave as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. For instance, drivers must follow traffic laws and operate their vehicles safely. You must then prove that they failed to meet their duty of care, also known as a breach of duty. 

Loss of Consortium

Generally reserved only for spouses or partners of the deceased victim, loss of consortium refers to the loss of benefits of a familial or intimate relationship due to injuries caused by another’s negligence. It includes the loss of companionship, love, comfort, care, protection, assistance, affection, moral support, and sexual relations. It is a type of non-economic damage. 


Legally speaking, negligence is the failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. It involves actions or omissions that result in harm to another person. Negligence is a key concept in tort law. Examples of wrongful death cases arising out of negligence include motor vehicle accidents and medical malpractice.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

Wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits in some ways, but there are a few key differences. A personal injury lawsuit is filed by the injured person to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Survivors or the estate of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover their losses, such as loss of future income and funeral expenses. 


A settlement is an agreement to resolve a legal case without continuing to a final court judgment. In tort law, a settlement is the financial compensation the injured party or their family receives. Wrongful death settlements can be paid as one-time lump sums or as structured settlements. If a fair wrongful death settlement cannot be reached through negotiations, one or both parties may decide to bring the case to trial. 

Statute of Limitations 

The statute of limitations is the time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from when the death occurred. There are a few exceptions; however, it is considered in the best interest of the deceased’s family members to act as quickly as possible. 

Survival Action

A survival action is a legal claim made by the estate of a deceased person to recover damages that the deceased incurred from the time of injury until their death. Unlike wrongful death claims, survival actions focus on the losses and suffering experienced by the deceased before they died. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering endured by the deceased between the injury and death. 

Wrongful Death 

A wrongful death occurs when a person or entity causes the death of another person due to their negligent or intentional actions. Wrongful death is a type of personal injury claim that allows surviving family members to recover compensation for losses.


Do You Need an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Claim? 

Wrongful death suits

There are many benefits to hiring a wrongful death attorney. An experienced attorney can guide you through the complex legal process and seek financial compensation for the loss of your loved one. You may face an uphill battle with the insurance company without a lawyer. 

The key to finding the right attorney is to look for one who specializes in wrongful death lawsuits and has experience with similar claims. The wrongful death attorneys at Sierra Accident Lawyers have decades of combined experience in the personal injury field. Our legal team knows the ins and outs of the wrongful death statute and will get you the justice you deserve. Call our Rancho Cucamonga law office today for a free consultation

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