No amount of money can bring back a loved one or ameliorate the tragedy of a fatal accident on the road or in the workplace. At the very least, one should hold the person responsible for the accident accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California.
In these situations, the person liable often employs legal strategies or defenses — through common wrongful death defenses — to reduce their liability and defend themselves against the accusations. It is crucial to be aware of these defense tactics and seek help from an experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles to guide you through your case.
Below are five common wrongful death defenses that are often seen in wrongful death claims in Los Angeles.
The defendant might say they used force to protect themselves from a threat, which then happened to lead to the victim’s death. To establish a valid claim of self-defense, the defendant must prove that their life was reasonably and imminently at risk. For example, the defendant may invoke self-defense, such as physical force or hostility, especially when dealing with a situation involving an intoxicated individual. In these instances, the defendant may assert that they believed their life was at risk due to the aggressive behavior of another caused by alcohol consumption.
Causation in wrongful death defense is when the defendant claims that their actions or negligence did not cause the death of the victim. For example, let’s say a loved one with a known heart condition tragically dies while doing strenuous activity with a fitness trainer. The family of the deceased may believe the trainer’s exercise routine caused the death and file a wrongful death lawsuit against him. Through causation, the trainer may argue that the pre-existing heart condition would have killed the victim nonetheless — whether he engaged in the strenuous exercise routine or not.
Comparative negligence determines how to allocate responsibility and compensation when multiple parties are to blame for an accident or injury. It is a fair way to divide blame and costs among everyone involved, based on each party’s responsibility. For instance, imagine two drivers get in a car accident, and one of the drivers is killed. Both parties may share some responsibility for the collision in a scenario in which one was speeding, and the other ran a red light. If the court determines that the driver who was speeding was 60% at fault, and the driver who ran the red light was 40% at fault, the compensation that each party’s family receives will be proportional.
Assumption of Risk
An assumption of risk defense states that the victim is responsible for their own death because they were aware of the risks associated with the activity in which they decided to willingly engage. For example, let’s say the family of a skier killed in a ski accident brings a wrongful death suit against the ski resort. The resort may employ assumption of risk as a defense, claiming that anyone who skis understands that there is inherent risk in any sport, including — and particularly — skiing.
When a release agreement defense is used in a wrongful death claim, the defendant argues that the deceased person previously signed a legal document excusing the defendant from any responsibility for harm or death. For example, if a driver rented a car from a rental company, but was then killed in an accident, the rental company will likely cite release agreement as a defense — assuming the company had the driver sign a liability waiver releasing it from any responsibility in the event of an accident.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for wrongful death refers to the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you lose the right to pursue a claim. Statutes of limitations vary by jurisdiction and the type of injury or incident. In California, for instance, you have two years to file a wrongful death claim after your loved one passes.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney
This article explains the basics surrounding common legal defenses for wrongful death cases. A lawyer in Los Angeles who specializes in wrongful death cases can help you determine the appropriate compensation for your claim. Surviving loved ones may receive financial support to recover funeral expenses, loss of income, and loss of companionship.
John J. Perlstein, one of the best personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles, has over 25 years of experience securing fair and just outcomes in personal injury cases and wrongful death cases. He will ensure accurate compensation for victims’ families.
You can reach us at (213) 583-5786. Or, fill out the form on our website to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer. This consultation will provide you with an opportunity to tell us the details of your case and let us determine how we can help you get the justice you deserve.