Every year, millions of families are saddened when a loved one dies prematurely, due to injuries received in an accident that was due to negligent behavior or a wrongful act by another person or company. In California, a wrongful death claim may be made as a civil lawsuit action. The survivors or a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is allowed to file this type of Personal Injury claim. This claim details the monetary damages that the wrongful death generated, and if the case is won after fault is established, the plaintiff(s) would be granted monetary compensation for those claims.
A civil claim, this differs from elements of a criminal case. Survivors are allowed to file the civil claim even if there already is a criminal case in progress, as there would be in the case of a homicide where the guilty person receives other penalties, such as jail time. In either case, if your family member suffered a wrongful death, an experienced California Wrongful Death Attorney can help you decide which course of action will bring you the best results.
California Wrongful Death Attorney
When you consult with a California Wrongful Death Attorney, they already know about the complexities of filing this type of case. Many details must be investigated and proven to win a wrongful death case. To begin with, only certain people are allowed to file for Wrongful Death compensation. The entire text of the applicable California Code is found here: California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.60, et seq., but in brief, the following survivors of the deceased person are eligible:
- Spouse/Domestic Partner
- Financially dependent persons – stepchildren, parents, putative spouse/children
- Parents and Siblings – if no spouse, partner or children survive
Once it is confirmed that the person seeking compensation for a wrongful death is able to file a claim, their attorney will begin an investigation into the alleged wrongful death. The attorney will be looking for causes that point to negligent behavior by another person or entity.
California Wrongful Death Accidents
There are many California Wrongful Death Accidents may happen. If a person is killed in an accident of any kind that was due to negligence, there may also be a claim for Wrongful Death. Auto accidents, trucking accidents, safety violations, deliberate attack by another person, defective products, failure to properly warn against hazards and other actions can easily result in a death. Any act that ends with the death of another person prior to their naturally occurring demise could be considered to be wrongful and premature.
The claims in a wrongful death lawsuit are set forth in terms of monetary losses to survivors. They can make claims asking for compensation for types of personal pain and suffering because as survivors, they are now deprived of the companionship, support and love of that deceased person. As is true in other Personal Injury lawsuits, specific monetary amounts are calculated for a variety of losses. In California, claims made are derived from whether they affect the estate or the survivors of the deceased.
Typical compensation claims that could be made under Wrongful Death include:
- Funeral & Burial Costs
- Medical bills for patient care prior to their death
- Nursing home care expenses
- Loss of income the deceased would have provided survivors
- Psychological pain and suffering due to the loss of the loved one
- Pain & suffering of the deceased prior to death (calculated by expert witnesses)
- Loss of companionship or consortium with spouse/partner
- Loss of guardianship and guidance – for child/step-child
- Loss of future inheritance
- Property damage – vehicles damaged or lost in accident that caused injury/death
Wrongful Deaths – California
In the state of California, Wrongful Death claims are made by survivors or dependants of the deceased person, or by the estate of that person. Certain claims can only be made by survivors, such as loss of affection and moral support. An estate can request compensation for support of the estate, such as lost income the deceased would have used to maintain the property.
There are time limits in California for filing a Personal Injury – Wrongful Death – claim. For most cases, this is a two year time frame, but when government agencies are involved, it is reduced to six months. This time frame is adjusted to one year from the time of notification of death to reflect that delay if survivors do not know of the death until past the two year time limit. In certain cases, such as nursing home abuse leading to death of a patient, there may also be punitive damages levied.
Government records show that in 2007, California had 18,028 injury deaths, with 11,614 of those cited as unintentional. This is balanced against a population in the state of 36,250,311. A large percentage of unintentional deaths do occur in traffic accidents.
Other causes of wrongful death include:
- Medical Malpractice – sub-standard care, omissions, pharmaceutical errors, birth injuries
- Deliberate Attack – workplace violence, civil unrest
- Occupational Hazards – exposure to toxic chemicals
- Vehicle or Common Carrier accidents – bus, airplane, train, auto, truck, motorcycle, bicycle
- Construction Accidents – workers, passersby
- Recreational Accidents
- Firearms Accidents – hunting or sport, accidental firing
- Defective Products/Failures
Personal Injury Compensation
Compensation for Personal Injury claims of Wrongful Death vary according to the individual case and persons involved. For certain cases, such as Medical Malpractice, there are caps for damages. In California, this was set at $250,000 in 1975.
It is essential to work with an experienced California Wrongful Death Attorney if you have lost a loved one in an accident and want to pursue claims under state Personal Injury laws. There are many details and regulations that apply to this type of Personal Injury case, and an attorney who understands and has worked with these regulations offers you the best opportunity for successful claims. Fees are generally charged only after the case is settled and you receive a settlement or jury award. This is called contingency fee basis, and it is a typical method of payment for most Personal Injury cases.
If you have any questions about an accident involving a loved one who died and you want to pursue compensation under California Wrongful Death rules, contact an experienced California Wrongful Death Attorney immediately for answers and to arrange your initial consultation.