Losing a loved one unexpectedly as a result of the reckless, intentional, or negligent acts of another party is one of the painful experiences you could go through. Other than the immense grief resulting from an unexpected and preventable loss of a loved one, you also have to deal with numerous uncertainties related to the impact of the deceased on your future.
While there’s nothing you can do to bring back the deceased, making sure that you and your loved ones get financial stability can help ease the burden. This is why the state of California allows for filing wrongful death claims. However, this field of law is usually complex. That’s why it’s imperative to make sure you seek legal assistance from a seasoned, La Quinta wrongful death lawyer.
Our highly skilled wrongful death lawyers at Crockett Law Group are ready to provide the required assistance during this hard time. Our team will fight aggressively to protect your rights and ensure that you get maximum compensation for the losses and repercussions. Get in touch by calling (800) 900-9393 to schedule free consultation with a personal injury attorney.
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How is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of California?
Under state law, a wrongful death claim comes about when an individual dies due to the negligence or wrongful act of another party. Unlike criminal homicide cases, that’s designed to punish criminals, wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits filed by the survivors of the deceased. In wrongful death, the fault is expressed in terms of financial damages as well as compensation. Note that California allows a wrongful death claim to go to court, whether there’s an ongoing criminal investigation or not.
If the death of your loved one was a result of a negligent, intentional, or reckless act of another party, you’re entitled to file a claim for wrongful death with the help of a lawyer. Here are some examples of wrongful death cases:
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites
- Slip & fall resulting in death
- Auto accidents
- Assault & battery
- Drowning caused by inadequate safety measures at a pool or resort
- Death caused by a faulty or defective product
Who is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim In California?
According to California’s wrongful death laws, the following parties are qualified to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The surviving children or grandchildren (if children are deceased)
If there’s no surviving individual in the deceased line of descent, a lawsuit can be brought by anyone entitled to the property through intestate succession. This can include the dead person’s parents or siblings, depending on who’s alive at the time of the individual’s death.
In addition to the above-mentioned parties, the following persons can also file a wrongful death claim in California, as long as they can prove they were financially dependent on the deceased:
- Deceased individual’s parents
- Legal guardians
- Putative spouse
- Children of the putative spouse
What Types of Damages are Recoverable?
A California wrongful death claim is designed to compensate the surviving members for damages and financial losses caused by the death of a loved one. The state law does not apply any specific damage caps to the amount to be awarded, except for a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. However, the damages are certainly limited to the direct costs caused by the loss of a loved one.
That being said, the eligible parties can pursue the following types of damages:
These are meant to cover the financial losses experienced as a result of the death of a loved one. These include the loss of financial support the deceased would have provided, the value of products and services no longer provided by the deceased, funeral costs, etc.
These cannot be assigned any monetary value as they are subjective in nature. The settlement awarded for non-economic damages is usually higher than that of economic damages. Damages that fall under this category include loss of care, loss of companionship, mental anguish, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, guidance or protections, etc.
Although no compensation amount can replace the loved one, a fair settlement can substantially help make your lives easier and allow you to cope better in the absence of the deceased.
Can The Surviving Family File For Punitive Damages?
Under California law, surviving family members, even the decedent’s spouse or other beneficiaries cannot generally obtain punitive damages in wrongful death claim except if the departed died as a result of a felony homicide for which the party responsible has been criminally charged and convicted. The only way punitive damages are available is through a survival action on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
How is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
To show negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, you or your lawyer need to prove the following four elements of negligence:
Duty of Care
You need to show the jury that the defendant owed a duty of care in the situation that resulted in injury or death. As an example, every motorist is expected to drive in a careful and responsible manner.
Breach of Duty of Care
You ideally need to show how the defendant violated or breached the duty of care. This can be through a specific action or failure to do what another reasonable individual in the same situation would have done. An example of this case is when a driver operates a car while under the influence.
Next, you need to show that the death of your loved one was a result of the defendant’s actions and not due to another reason. For instance, while a motorist breaches their duty to others by driving under the influence, they cannot be held responsible for the death of a person who accidentally slips and falls on the sidewalk.
You also have to prove that due to the injuries and subsequent death of your loved one, you and the family suffered certain losses and damages compensable by law.
This simply means that for death to be considered wrongful, it needs to have been as a result of the deliberate, malicious, reckless, or negligent acts of another part. Next, the death needs to have caused the surviving loved ones mental, emotional, and financial suffering as well as measurable damages.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
In the unfortunate situation, you lose a loved one due to the negligent or deliberate actions of another party, it is imperative to get in touch with a skilled and seasoned wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.
Typically, the first in filing a wrongful death claim is creating an estate on behalf of the deceased individual. Next, you are required to identify the estate’s personal representative. In California, however, you do not necessarily need a representative in order to file a claim.
Once your claim’s defendant has been identified and you have garnered the proper evidence, your lawyer will help you with the paperwork and start the legal process.
Note that the statute of limitations in the state of California is two years. This means that you’re required to file the claim within two years from the death of your loved one to avoid losing the right to seek a settlement.
What’s the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action?
Wrongful death claims are filed on behalf of the surviving loved ones for the death of a family member. They are based on the fact that the surviving members have incurred loss and suffering and should therefore be compensated. As earlier mentioned, there are several damages that can be awarded.
On the contrary, a survival action is made on behalf of an estate with the aim to seek a settlement that would have been owed to the deceased if they were still alive. A survival claim can only be brought when the deceased person survived for some period of time after the accident before eventually succumbing to their injuries.
The damages available in a survival claim are limited by California Code of Civil Procedure 377.34 to losses or damages the deceased sustained before death. This can include punitive damages but not damages for pain and suffering.
Contact a Seasoned La Quinta Wrongful Death Lawyer!
If you have lost a family member due to misconduct of another party or in an avoidable incident, your life might have completely changed and you may be going through financial hardships in addition to grief. Dealing with the stress of a complex legal process is the last thing you need at the moment. This is where we come into the picture. The Crockett Law Group can handle your case to ensure your rights are protected and that you get the justice you deserve. Call us today at (800) 900-9393 for a free initial consultation!