Losing a loved one is always painful, but it is devastating when someone’s negligence causes your relative’s death. However, if you prove that another party was at fault for the accident, you could receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. For more information, contact our Glendale wrongful death attorneys today for a consultation.
Wrongful Death Claims In California
A wrongful death claim can occur from many incidents, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and criminal activity. To potentially receive compensation in a wrongful death claim, as the plaintiff, you must prove these elements:
- A person died
- The death was caused by someone’s negligence or intent to harm them
- Surviving members of the family suffered monetary damages because of the death
- There is a personal representative of the estate
Importantly, wrongful death claims in California only require you to have a preponderance of the evidence to prove the defendant was liable for the death. This is not as high of a standard as a criminal case, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Remember that a wrongful death claim is different from any criminal case that may be related to the incident. Even if a person is acquitted of a crime, they still can be successfully sued for wrongful death.
Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death In California?
The law stipulates that only certain parties can sue for wrongful death. Those with first priority are:
- The deceased’s surviving domestic partner or spouse
- The deceased’s surviving children
- The children of deceased children related to the decedent
If there are no survivors in these groups, the wrongful death claim can be filed by anyone entitled to the deceased’s assets according to intestate succession. This means anyone allowed under the law to inherit the deceased’s property if the person died without a will. This group includes the deceased’s parents and siblings, among others.
In addition to those in the groups above, the following people can file a claim, if they can prove they were financially reliant on the deceased:
- The deceased’s putative spouse, which means someone who wrongly thought they were married to the deceased
- The children of the deceased’s putative spouse
- The decedent’s stepchildren
- The deceased’s parents
- The deceased’s legal guardians, if the deceased’s parents passed away
Damages Available In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit
If a wrongful death claim is successful, you may be awarded damages for your losses. In California, the following economic and non-economic damages are available:
- Financial support the deceased would have provided to the family
- Loss of benefits or gifts that family members would have received from the deceased
- Funeral and burial costs
- The value of household services the deceased would have provided to the family
- Loss of the deceased’s companionship, love, care, comfort, affection, and moral support
- The spouse’s loss of intimacy with the deceased
- Loss of the deceased’s guidance
California does not have a general cap on damages for wrongful death lawsuits. However, a cap on medical malpractice damages applies to a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a medical malpractice case.
California Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations
In California, there is a limited time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The limit is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. If you do not file the case within two years, the court will probably dismiss it. Your best opportunity to avoid this problem is to have the case reviewed by a qualified attorney immediately. The attorney will inform you in the initial meeting if you do not have a case.
Common California Questions And Answers
Some of the most common questions about these cases include:
What Are Common Reasons For Wrongful Death Lawsuits In California?
Wrongful death claims can involve car accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, boat and airplane accidents, defective products, dangerous chemical exposure, work accidents, criminal actions, drownings, and more.
How Is A Wrongful Death Attorney Paid?
Many potential plaintiffs are reluctant to file a wrongful death claim because they fear the legal expenses. However, most wrongful death attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis. If the attorney fails in your case, you do not pay legal fees. The fee is a percentage of the compensation received in the case. When hiring an attorney, be sure to understand what the contingency fee is and how additional legal expenses are paid.
For example, your case could require the attorney to hire accident reconstruction experts to build the case. In addition, you should understand if those fees will be taken out of your settlement or award.
How Do You Know You Need A Wrongful Death Attorney?
Not everyone is eligible for a wrongful death claim, but if the following factors apply, you should hire an attorney immediately:
- Someone died, and another party caused it. If your loved one died in an accident or criminal act by another person, you should have an attorney.
- You are a surviving close family member. Spouses are the most common parties who file a wrongful death claim, but there are other eligible parties (listed earlier in this article).
- The insurance company is not being helpful. Your attorney can help you prove that the other party was negligent and caused the death. The lawyer will attempt to show that the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care, the duty was breached and caused your loved one’s death.
- You need financial assistance. No amount of money has ever replaced a loved one. However, the family may have depended financially on the deceased, and mounting financial challenges make life difficult. An attorney can determine what the case is worth and get the maximum compensation by advocating passionately on your behalf.
Speak to Our Glendale Wrongful Death Attorneys Now
There are some minor personal injury claims you can handle on your own. However, you should not attempt to settle a wrongful death claim without a skilled attorney. Even if there is no doubt about liability, arriving at a fair value for your case is complicated. Therefore, retaining a wrongful death lawyer who knows the law and how to determine what the case is worth is essential. Contact our Glendale wrongful death attorneys at Ourfalian & Ourfalian today at (818) 550-7777 for more information.