According to the latest U.S. data available from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the CDC, accidental or unintentional deaths are the third leading cause of death. An estimated 173,040 people lost their lives because of unintentional deaths in 2019, with the top three causes of accidental deaths being falls, motor vehicles, and unintentional poisoning.
In the wake of the sudden death of a loved one, surviving family members are left with untold anguish and trauma and may not know how to proceed. Often, not only do they have to deal with overwhelming pain, grief, and emotional trauma, but they also suffer great financial and emotional losses, both immediate and in the future.
A skilled and compassionate Coachella Valley wrongful death lawyer can explain your rights and help you pursue a wrongful death claim in California to help you get justice for your lost loved one.
When a person or entity’s reckless or criminal actions cause the death of a person, the deceased’s surviving family or the estate can sue for damages. At Crockett Law Group, we understand the pain and losses associated with wrongful death. For years, our legal team has advocated for the families of wrongful death victims throughout California. Our personal injury attorneys are here to help you file your wrongful death claim and fight aggressively on your behalf so you can move forward in these trying times.
If your loved one succumbed to fatal injuries after an accident in Coachella Valley or anywhere in California, please call us at (800) 900-9393 to learn about filing a wrongful death claim and whether we can help. We offer free initial case evaluations.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of California?
A death in California is considered wrongful if it results from a person or entity’s recklessness, negligence, or intentional misconduct. California law allows the decedent’s estate or certain family members to sue the negligent person or entity responsible for the death of their loved one.
A wrongful death claim is not a criminal case. Instead, it is brought in civil courts. It seeks to reimburse the surviving family members for related losses, including funeral and burial expenses, and hold the defendant accountable, not criminally but civilly.
Wrongful death can be the result of a variety of fatal accidents, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Defective products
- Nursing home neglect
- Medical malpractice
- Occupational accidents
- And any fatal accident caused by another person or party’s negligence
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
In California, only specific family members are permitted to file a wrongful death claim. California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 outlines that a lawsuit for the death of an individual caused by the neglect or wrongful act of another may be filed or asserted by the following family members or by the decedent’s representative on their behalf:
- The decedent’s domestic partner or spouse
- Putative spouse (a putative spouse is a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who in good faith believed that the marriage with the deceased was valid)
- Other minors, e.g., children of the putative spouse or stepchildren who were dependent on the deceased for 50% or more for financial support and resided for the previous 180 days in the deceased person’s household
- Other heirs, such as the decedent’s parents and siblings
- Anyone entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
Damages for a wrongful death case in California are awarded to compensate the surviving family members or heirs for the various losses they suffered (associated with the decedent’s death) and the value of the support they could reasonably have expected to receive from the decedent if they had lived.
Generally, these damages can be classified as economic and non-economic losses. However, specific amounts for damages vary depending on the circumstances of the case, such as the decedent’s life expectancy at the time of the wrongful act.
Economic Damages for Wrongful Death (Without Limitation)
These are financial losses and may include:
- Loss of income of the loved one, including expected future income
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills or costs related to medical care provided to the decedent before death
The heirs or surviving family members often recover the following economic damages:
- Loss of gifts and the prospect of inheritance
- The financial support the decedent would have contributed to the heirs during their lifetimes
- Reasonable value of other household contributions
- Loss of anticipated income
Non-Economic Damages for Wrongful Death (Without Limitation)
These cover intangible losses and compensate surviving family members for the loss of the decedent’s:
- Training and guidance,
- Moral support,
- Society and companionship, and
- Sexual relations.
If you lose a loved one in a tragic and avoidable accident, lawyers and taking legal action are probably the last things on your mind. However, while no amount of compensation can make up for the devastating loss of a loved one, it can provide a future of better financial stability for your family. Your pain matters, but so does your future, and our compassionate Coachella Valley wrongful death lawyers want to help you find some solace after your inconceivable loss.
Can Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
Yes and no. Under California law, surviving family members cannot recover punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit unless the decedent’s death resulted from felony homicide for which the defendant has been convicted.
However, punitive damages may be recovered through a “survival action” filed on behalf of the deceased person’s estate.
Note that a survival action is not a wrongful death claim. Please talk to our Coachella Valley wrongful death lawyers to under the difference between a wrongful death suit and a survival action and if they can be tied together under the same underlying wrongful act.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
Surviving family members or heirs can file a wrongful death case in California for any accident based on negligence, recklessness, gross negligence, or an intentional wrongful act. In order to prove negligence in a wrongful death case, the following general elements must be shown:
- Duty: The defendant owed the decedent a duty to exercise reasonable care.
- Breach: Proof that the defendant’s actions or omission/failure to act breached his/her duty of care.
- Causation: Proof that your loved one died because of the defendant’s intentional wrongful act and/or negligence.
- Damages: Proof that the surviving family members suffered compensable losses stemming from the death.
The exception is if the deceased was killed by a defective product or a dog bite or mauling, where heirs or the estate can sue on the basis of “strict liability.”
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Without the services of a qualified and experienced wrongful death lawyer, it can be challenging to file your lawsuit and pursue justice. Working with a skilled attorney from the beginning of your lawsuit can make the legal process less daunting.
At Crockett Law Group, we understand the challenges and complexities involved with filing a wrongful death claim. We will help you at every step of the way and secure all the compensation your family is entitled to!
Below is a look at the typical steps involved in wrongful death claims:
- Hiring a wrongful death lawyer
- Finding out who can file
- Filing the lawsuit before the deadline
- Evidence gathering and preparation of documentation
- Settlement negotiation
Contact an Experienced Coachella Valley Wrongful Death Lawyer
The death of a loved one caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongful act is one of the most agonizing things you can experience. You shouldn’t have to grieve and deal with the stress of pursuing justice and the compensation you deserve on top of that. Instead, hire the aggressive and compassionate wrongful death lawyers at Crockett Law Group.
We are passionate about helping families that have experienced the loss of loved ones. Our mission is to connect the dots and put together a compelling wrongful death case for recovering maximum damages during these trying times.
Contact us at (800) 900-9393 today to explore your legal options with our knowledgeable and compassionate Coachella Valley wrongful death lawyers.