After the death of a loved one, families of the deceased are often forced to deal with emotional and financial trauma, particularly if the deceased was the primary wage earner.
While money can never compensate for the loss of a loved one, the financial pain can be eased a bit through a wrongful death suit. If you have a lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, call a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney at Citywide Law Group today. We offer a free consultation and only get paid if you win.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When a person suffers the loss of a loved one as the result of an accident which was caused by the negligence of another person or entity, the legal term for that loss is “wrongful death.”
A wrongful death claim is brought by the survivors for economic losses as resulting from the death of a loved one. In the state of California, family members can pursue a wrongful death claim under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60. Wrongful death lawsuits prevent companies or individuals from escaping liability for their negligence because the victim died as a result.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Survivors of the deceased are allowed to seek compensation for the death of a loved one when negligence is involved. Those who may file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Spouses may file a wrongful death claim to recover for future earnings as well as loss of consortium. Though wrongful death claim do not generally include emotional distress, survivors may be able to recover damages for things the deceased would have provided if he or she had lived such as protection, aid, comfort, advice and guidance.
- Life partners, putative spouses, domestic partners and same sex partners may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim to recover the same compensation available to a spouse. A putative spouse is a person who had a good faith believe he or she was married to the deceased.
- Minor children, including adopted children, of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for loss of parental guidance and companionship and loss of future financial support resulting from the death of the parent.
- In some cases, distant family members such as siblings and grandparents may be allowed to bring a wrongful death claim.
- If there are no other survivors, the parents of an adult child who dies through an act of negligence, may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
All states have time limits during which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. In the state of California, wrongful death lawsuits are governed by a two-year statute of limitation found in the California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1. This date begins on the date of the death, except in cases of wrongful death due to medical malpractice, which allow three years from the date of the injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the injury, whichever comes first.
Proving a Wrongful Death Claim
When another’s reckless or deliberate behavior results in the death of another, negligence has occurred and a wrongful death claim may be appropriate. To determine if a party has been negligent, the court considers the manner in which a reasonable person would have acted under the same circumstances.
As an example, if a person dies during a medical operation, then the question becomes whether a properly trained doctor, under the exact same circumstances, would have acted differently.
The law says there is a duty of care owed. When this duty of care is breached, and those actions result in the death of another, negligence has occurred. Our experienced wrongful death attorneys will carefully assess the circumstances of the death of your loved one to determine and advise you on how to best proceed.
What Compensation is Possible in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits will usually seek compensation for the following:
- Loss of income;
- Funeral expenses;
- Medical expenses of the decedent prior to death;
- Loss of training and advice;
- Loss of Services;
- Loss of consortium, and
- Possibly, punitive damages.
When making a determination of the damages to be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit, the court will consider the relationship between the deceased and the person bringing the lawsuit, the “value” of the services provided by the deceased and the life expectancy of the deceased.
The negligent party may be required to reimburse medical and funeral expenses to the party bringing the suit or the estate. If there are multiple heirs to the settlement and those heirs are unable to determine how to divide the money, the court will divide it as it sees fit.
Particularly if the deceased was the primary wage earner, and was relatively young at the time of his or her death, the damages for loss of income can be significant. Loss of consortium is the loss of companionship, usually when a spouse dies.
Loss of training and advice refers to the practical as well as moral training a child would have received from his or her deceased parent. Punitive damages are rarely recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit, however if the defendant is convicted of felony homicide in the victim’s death, then punitive damages could be warranted.
If your loved one was not working at the time of his or her death, it is likely there were other contributions made to family members which are compensable. An example would be a stay-at-home mom who took care of the children, cleaned the home, managed the household finances, bought groceries and cooked meals, which are all quantifiable losses.
Causes of Wrongful Deaths
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of wrongful death for those under the age of 35. According to the CDC, there are more than 33,000 deaths from motor vehicle accidents per year. When taken as a whole, however, medical errors kill more people than car crashes, breast cancer, AIDS, airplane crashes or drug overdoses. Behind auto collisions and medical wrongful deaths come:
- Workplace injuries;
- Boating and swimming accidents;
- Slip and falls;
- Train accidents;
- Manufacturing defects, and
- Occupational conditions such as exposure to asbestos or other harmful substance in the workplace.
The CDC estimates there are approximately 30,000 annual deaths as a result of slip and falls, whether on a slick surface or from a height. When a wrongful death can be linked to a defect in the manufacturing of a product which the manufacturer was aware of, yet ignored, additional punitive damages may be warranted.
Speak to a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Wrongful death cases can be very complex, and, as such, are best left to an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death attorney. We will conduct a thorough investigation in order to build your wrongful death case and will ensure your rights are protected and preserved.