The death of a loved one is the greatest conceivable loss a person can suffer. Although no amount of money can adequately compensate for such a loss, wrongful death laws allow those who have lost a loved one to seek compensation in a fatal accident in which another person’s negligence or misconduct was involved.
These claims may be filed by a knowledgeable Manhattan Beach wrongful death attorney at Dinsmore & Sandelmann, LLP against someone directly involved in the accident or a third party indirectly responsible for the fatal injuries. Wrongful death claims often arise from traffic accidents, work-related accidents, medical malpractice, or product liability.
A successful wrongful death claim must have several different elements:
- Death: This may go without saying, but a person must have passed away in order for there to be a wrongful death claim.
- Negligence or intent: There must have been some type of negligence or willful intent to do harm for a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Damages: Another key element of a wrongful death lawsuit in California is proving that the plaintiff has suffered damages, such as loss of income or monetary support, and funeral or burial costs.
- Legal representative: The lawsuit must be brought by a legal representative of the deceased’s estate.
Read on to learn more about these different facets of a wrongful death claim.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to build your case, you need to prove the other party’s negligence and that it was this negligence or wrongful action that caused your loved one’s fatal injuries. If you are successful, you may be compensated for the loss of love, comfort, companionship, society, affection, solace or moral support. You may also recover costs including medical bills, funeral expenses, and lost financial support.
To be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, there are certain requirements. Immediate family members can almost always file a wrongful death claim. In California, depending on which relatives survive the decedent, a claim may be made by the decedent’s:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Children (and children of deceased children)
- Domestic partner
If no relative of the decedent in the three categories above are alive at the time of the decedent’s death, then relatives entitled to make a claim include the decedent’s:
- Parents and siblings
- Children of a sibling who is deceased
- Grandparents and other lineal descendants
Certain other people who suffer financially from the decedent’s death and depended on them financially may also make a claim. An experienced Manhattan Beach wrongful death attorney will be able to help you determine whether you are eligible to file a claim under California law.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only a proper legal representative can file a wrongful death claim on your behalf. This representative is usually the executor of the decedent’s estate, but your wrongful death attorney will be able to help determine the proper representative and present the evidence in court to assert your rights to compensation.
Time is essential in a wrongful death claim because there are strict time limits on how long you have to file. This time limit is known as the statute of limitations and it varies depending on the type of incident that caused the death.
What Benefits Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case?
Wrongful death damages that may be obtained may include:
- Lost expected financial support from the decedent’s income and other sources
- Medical and other expenses incurred by the decedent
- Damage of loss of any vehicle
- Funeral and burial costs
You may also be compensated for non-economic damages, which are by far the greatest harms, such as the following:
- Loss of care and guidance from the deceased
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of affection
- Loss of solace or moral support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of comfort and society
In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the party at fault for their behavior. The purposes of punitive damages are to punish a wrongdoer and to discourage similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages may be awarded when it is shown that the wrongdoer acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. Malice may be found where the wrongdoer acted with intent to cause injury or the conduct was despicable and was done with a willful and knowing disregard of the rights or safety of another.
Your Manhattan Beach wrongful death attorney will decide if punitive damages are possible in your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Death Claims
To prove a wrongful death claims in California, the plaintiff must be able to prove that:
– The defendant committed a negligent or malicious act;
– The act was a substantial factor in causing the death of the decedent; and
– Surviving family members suffered damages as a result of the death.
Read more about proving wrongful death in California.
The statute of limitations refers to laws that dictate how much time you have to file a lawsuit. This time limit varies by state and by the type of lawsuit. In California, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of death.
This is a common question, but unfortunately there is no quick or easy answer. Some cases settle very quickly, within a few weeks or months. In other cases it can take a year or even longer.
Finding a California Wrongful Death Attorney
While a financial settlement will never replace the loss of a loved one, it reduces the financial burden of the surviving relatives. Now you can fully concentrate on grieving for the one you have lost without having to worry about bills and expenses.
Wrongful death law is very complex because it is intertwined with numerous other areas of personal injury law such as traffic law, product liability, medical malpractice, etc. After having lost a loved one, you may not be capable of understanding and analyzing all aspects of your case.
An experienced California wrongful death law attorney at Dinsmore & Sandelmann can guide you through the process with skill and compassion. Our attorneys work diligently to pursue compensation on behalf of those who have lost a loved one. In one notable case, we recovered over $1,000,000 in a wrongful death trucking accident.
Contact us today at 310-318-1220 for assistance and a free consultation.