Wrongful deaths, according to a wrongful death attorney, are not uncommon in the state of California. Defective products, hazardous situations at work, negligent drivers, and carelessness could all lead to fatal accidents.
Losing a loved one due to any type of occurrence, from medical malpractice to car accident, can be a difficult time for anyone. Additionally, dealing with the financial burden that accompanies wrongful death could be overwhelming. A qualified wrongful death lawyer can help you during this stressful time by navigating the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Our empathetic attorneys at Krasney Law are experienced in handling wrongful death cases and will help you in getting justice for the loss of your loved one.
What is wrongful death?
When someone fails to adopt reasonable measures to prevent any accidents, such failure could end up causing severe injury to another person(s). Such behavior on the part of the former person constitutes negligence. When negligence leads to somebody’s death, then it is called wrongful death.
In the state of California, a wrongful death action is the lawsuit which arises when someone dies due to a wrongful act. Negligence on the part of another entity or person. Filing a wrongful death case in California could allow you to obtain reimbursement for economic and non-economic damages. It can also enable you to seek justice against the at-fault person or entity.
Note that a wrongful death claim does not involve a homicide or a murder trial. It is also not a criminal case. Rather, it is a lawsuit filed in the civil courts of California to hold the defendant civilly (not criminally) responsible for the death of a person. Your family might have the foundation to file a wrongful death suit for any unintentional wrongdoing on the part of the at-fault person. For intentional crimes or misconduct, your family can file a wrongful death lawsuit at the same time when a criminal trial is going on against the defendant.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in California?
Under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, only certain persons are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If you are not a qualifying party or a representative of the deceased person, unfortunately, you might not be allowed to recover damages. Here is the list of individuals who can file wrongful death claims in California:
- A surviving spouse or a domestic partner
- Surviving child or children
- A person entitled to the property by intestate succession
- Putative spouse
- Child of the putative spouse
- Minor children or stepchildren
This is the typical order in which wrongful death lawsuits can be brought forth by family members. Putative spouses and the people below them on the list could only bring about such claims if they can show financial dependence on the deceased person. A lawsuit through intestate succession could only be filed if there is no person alive left in the deceased individual’s direct line of descent.
California wrongful death statute of limitations
The statute of limitations in California stipulates the amount of time you would have to file a wrongful death claim. This statute keeps the process of filing wrongful death claims fair for both parties by allowing reasonable time to the plaintiff to file such a lawsuit.
Depending on the particular case, different statutes of limitations will apply. In the state of California, the plaintiff gets two years from the date of the death of their deceased relative to file a lawsuit. This deadline might or might not be accompanied by a discovery rule exemption. According to this rule, if a plaintiff does not discover their injuries until after the accident has occurred. They will have until the date of discovery to file their wrongful death lawsuit. Therefore, if the surviving loved ones have not discovered the cause of death within two years, they might get more time to file their claim.
Individual circumstances will influence the exact deadlines for wrongful death cases. Cases against medical malpractice or the government in California have to be filed sooner. Therefore, in such cases, it is vital to take prompt action after the wrongful death happens. If you miss the deadline, you might become ineligible to attain compensation for the death of your loved one. Even if your lawyer can prove negligence, the defendant could use the delay period as a defense against their liability for the accident. Thus, you must speak to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as you can.
How to prove a wrongful death claim in California?
Prior to recovering any compensation for a wrongful death case, you and your attorney need to gather evidence that will prove that wrongful death has happened. Usually, you would need to prove that someone’s negligence caused the death of your loved one. You are not required to prove that the defendant tried to kill the deceased person or that they meant to injure them intentionally. Instead, the proof will be based on the legal theory of negligence.
Legally, negligence is made of four constituent factors that your experienced wrongful death lawyer must prove to more likely be true rather than false. These are the four factors:
- Accident or injury caused: Misconduct or recklessness on the part of the defendant must have led to severe injuries that your loved one suffered. Your lawyer must prove that the death of your loved one more likely than not should not have happened if the defendant had performed their duty of care.
- Duty of care owed: The defendant should have owed to your loved one the duty of reasonable care. The relationship between the defendant and the victim will dictate the level of care that is owed by the former to the latter. For instance, a friend sharing medical advice will owe different duties of care in comparison to an employer.
- Duty of care violated or breached: Your lawyer must be able to prove that the defendant breached their duty of care toward the victim. A breach may be any action that falls outside the defendant’s duty of care. If in the same situation another person would have responded differently, the defendant could be held guilty for violating their duty of care.
- Damages suffered: The fact that the defendant’s negligence caused some reimbursable damages must be proved. You can work with your wrongful death lawyer to gather a list of such damages which include hospitalization, lost wages, property damage, funeral expenses, etc.
What is the difference between a wrongful death claim and a survival action?
In cases involving wrongful death, usually family members are compensated for losses. In survival action, the state of California permits the deceased person’s estate to recover for damages suffered by the person immediately before death.
The California survival action statute states that plaintiffs might recover certain damages which were sustained prior to death. This includes any penalties, punitive or exemplary damages which the deceased individual would have been entitled to recover if they had survived. Such compensation does not include damages for disfigurement, pain, or suffering. Had they survived the incident, they could recover damages for lost wages and medical bills.
Survival actions typically do not permit plaintiffs to claim the cost of pain and suffering. However, by facilitating recovery of punitive damages, they are meant to hold the at-fault party accountable for their wrongdoing.
What are the damages that can be recovered due to wrongful death?
The main purpose of filing a wrongful death claim is to recover compensation for surviving family members who might be suffering losses due to the passing of their loved ones. Family members are allowed to seek damages for economic and non-economic losses. However, the exact compensation that they can attain varies according to the circumstances of each particular case.
Economic damages refer to compensation for all financial losses that family members can claim. These include medical receipts, bills, pay statements, and any other verifiable financial documents. A court could also grant economic damages representing loss in future earnings or domestic services.
For instance, if a person loses their spouse who would have worked for another 20 years, the surviving spouse can seek lost future income for those 20 years. This figure can factor in likely rises in inflation, wages, and other factors over time. Such estimations usually require the expertise of mathematicians and economists which Krasney Law attorneys use for their cases.
Some other examples of retrievable economic damages include funeral costs, burial costs, and cost of medical care provided to the loved one before they passed away.
Sometimes, courts can also opt to provide compensation for non-economic damages, although we know that there is no amount which can replace the presence of a close family member. However, depending on the case, courts can award monetary compensation for loss of affection, love, moral support, companionship, and if appropriate, sexual intimacy. If the case does not settle prior to the trial, the jury might determine the amount required to compensate a family for the loss of their loved ones.
Deciding to take legal action is never an easy step when you are grieving the loss of someone close to you. However, it is essential to fight for your rights and those of your family members in order to protect your future. Filing a lawsuit does not have to be a stressful process. With the right guidance from our attorneys at Krasney Law, you will have an advocate who will fight for your right to fair compensation on your behalf. If you are wondering in what ways a wrongful death lawyer can help you, keep reading the following section.
How can a wrongful death lawyer help?
A lawyer is in a better situation to fight for your case than anyone else because they have a team of legal experts to assist them with the process. Here is how a lawyer will work on your wrongful death case.
Filing a lawsuit
The first step in the process is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party and set up a trial date in the court. Plenty of requirements should be filled during the filing process. Working with an experienced attorney should ease this process as they will know how to be persuasive in handling your case.
Gathering all elements of the wrongful death case
In this step, your attorney will perform investigations to prepare a complete case on your behalf. Usually, three conditions need to be satisfied in court for your case to succeed. Firstly, the death occurred due to an accident or an intentional action on part of the defendant. Many types of accidents can lead to wrongful death including vehicle and commercial truck accidents, workplace accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, etc. Also, wrongful death can be caused intentionally by means of murder, arson, manslaughter, assault, etc. Your attorney will need to gather evidence proving the cause of death in either case.
Secondly, the cause of death is negligence on part of the offending party. You need to provide evidence on specific actions which led to the death of your family member. For instance, you are not able to sue a vehicle manufacturer for an error caused by a driver. However, you can sue them if an accident happened due to a defective service or a part which they should have checked.
Thirdly, the wrongful death has led to significant loss in your family. A good attorney will be able to determine the exact financial loss that you are facing and fight for the compensation you are entitled to receive.
Defending your claim
A good attorney will be able to counter the defense in whatever evidence they present and demonstrate that it is you who suffered greater loss.
Negotiating the settlement
Your attorney will know how to negotiate the settlement amount in court. They will know how to get you the compensation you deserve for your wrongful death case. If denied, they will fight till you attain the amount that you are entitled to receive for your case.