Wrongful death is when a person dies due to the negligence of another person or entity. It’s a tragic loss to see a loved one depart due to the actions of another. As a relative of the deceased, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death claim and recover compensatory damages for the loss. An Orange County wrongful death attorney can help you file such a claim and recover a fair amount of compensation.
A wrongful death claim encompasses a wide range of damages. Here is a look at the people who may qualify to file such a claim and the damages available.
Who Can Seek Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, the following people related to the deceased are legally entitled to file a wrongful death claim:
- A partner or spouse of the deceased person
- Any surviving children of the deceased
- Any surviving grandchildren of the deceased
- Any stepchildren of the deceased
- A putative spouse of the deceased person
- Any children of the putative spouse of the deceased
- If the parents of the deceased are not alive, any legal guardians of the deceased
- Any person who is a legal heir of the deceased person through intestate succession.
Types of Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
As with most personal injury claims, a claim filed for wrongful death covers three categories of damages. These include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. More than one type of damages may be available in your wrongful death claim, depending on the circumstances of the death.
These refer to the tangible, financial losses suffered by the heirs and survivors of the deceased. Economic damages cover:
- Medical costs involved when a person dies after surviving the original accident for some time
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Damages pertaining to an estimate of the financial support that the deceased person would have provided to the family. These depend on the life expectancy of the deceased person and of the plaintiff as well as other factors.
- Compensation for any other financial or monetary assistance that the deceased person would have provided to the family.
Non-economic damages pertain to intangible damages. These damages can be sought for:
- Loss of consortium. The loss of a spouse or a partner results in a tragic loss for a person. The surviving spouse or partner can seek compensation in lieu of such loss of consortium.
- Loss of guidance and support. Family members of a deceased person, such as children, can seek damages for the loss of guidance and support they would have received from the victim had he or she remained alive.
- Psychological suffering. This may cover mental anguish, anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychological suffering brought on by the loss of the loved one.
- Loss of love and care. This is a broader category of non-economic damages. The family of the deceased can seek these for losing the love, care, comfort, and social support of their deceased relative.
Punitive damages are not available in all wrongful death claims. They are available when the death of a person is due to the gross negligence, deliberate malice, or reckless conduct of the at-fault party. Punitive damages are meant to be an exemplary penalty, deterring the at-fault party from repeating the behavior in the future.
It is important to note that under California laws, punitive damages are not available in a wrongful death claim. However, if a survival action is initiated by the estate of the deceased under California Codes 377.30, it is possible to seek this class of damages.
Examples of conduct that qualifies for punitive damages include:
- A driver who intentionally hits the victim
- A caretaker who clearly and deliberately neglects an elderly patient in a nursing home
- A driver who hits and kills another person while driving under the influence of alcohol
When awarding punitive damages, a jury will consider various factors. These include the degree of negligence of the defendant, the suffering caused by this negligence, and a dollar amount that would likely prevent the defendant from committing the same type of negligence again.
Hiring an Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of someone in Orange County, it is important to hold the at-fault party accountable. Filing a wrongful death claim is one way of doing so. Here at Crockett Law Group, we help the families of wrongful death victims recover the maximum amount of compensation for their tragic loss. Call us today for a free consultation with our lawyers.