Losing a loved one because of another person or entity’s intentional act or negligence can be devastating, knowing that the loss was avoidable.Untimely demises leave a void in the lives of surviving family members. You will have to learn to live without your loved one, a frightening experience that can turn your life upside down. Besides, your family will have to bear the economic challenges of the loss. This is why you need a San Bernardino wrongful death lawyer.
While no amount of compensation can take away the pain of losing a loved one, surviving family members can get a much-needed financial boost from a successful wrongful death claim. Family members entitled to compensation can benefit from a wrongful death claim because it enables them to recover compensatory damages related to the decedent’s death. The damages may include the deceased’s medical bills, lost income, and the lost services that the decedent rendered to the family.
If the death of a loved one resulted from another person or party’s negligence, contact a San Bernardino wrongful death lawyer from Crockett Law Group. Our personal injury lawyers are proud to handle wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. Call (800) 900-9393 for a free, no-risk initial consultation.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in the State of California?
In California the decedent’s estate representative or surviving family members are eligible to sue for damages when someone dies because of another persons or entity’s legal fault. The statute Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 outlines all legal grounds for filing a wrongful death claim. These include:
- Incidents caused by negligence or recklessness
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional actions
- Criminal activity
The following criteria are necessary for a wrongful death case in California:
- There exists an executor or a surviving family member to file the claim.
- The defendant was negligent and therefore responsible for the decedent’s loss of life.
- The defendant was entirely or partially responsible for the decedent’s death.
- The family experienced economic damages related to the death in question.
Who Is Qualified to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
In California, you have to be a domestic partner, a surviving family member, or a dependent of the decedent to be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
These individuals include the:
- Surviving children
- Surviving spouse
- Domestic partner.
If the deceased person has no surviving family members in their line of descent, any individual entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession can bring forward a wrongful death claim. In this respect, the decedent’s parents or siblings are eligible.
In addition, the following individuals can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California if they can prove that they relied on the decedent financially:
- The decedent’s putative spouse and children of the putative spouse;
- The decedent’s stepchildren; and
- The decedent’s parents.
A San Bernardino wrongful death lawyer can assess your case and help you determine whether you qualify to file a wrongful death claim.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable?
The damages available in wrongful death claims aim to compensate the heirs for financial and non-financial damages brought about by the decedent’s death. The decedent’s or plaintiff’s life expectancy at the time of the wrongful death, or whichever comes first, will determine the period for which damages are recoverable.
Economic damages represent computable financial losses resulting from wrongful death. They include:
- Loss of the decedent’s financial support to the heirs
- Loss of gifts or benefits the heirs would have received from the decedent
- Loss of the decedent’s services to the household
- The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses.
Non-Economic damages are all the intangible losses. They are difficult to quantify in monetary terms because they don’t come with bills or receipts to add up. They include:
- Loss of protection, affection, companionship, moral support, and
- Loss of intimate or sexual relations
- Loss of guidance and training.
Can Surviving Family File for Punitive Damages?
It is important to note that a California civil courts cannot grant punitive damages to surviving family unless the decedent’s death was as a result of a felony homicide for which the liable person has already been convicted.
To claim punitive damages in court, you would have to file a survival cause of action. If a survival action and wrongful death resulting from the same wrongful act, they can be pursued together.
How Is Negligence Proved in a Wrongful Death Case?
The plaintiff’s ability to show that the defendant’s negligence directly caused or contributed to the wrongful death in question will determine if a wrongful death claim will be successful. Here are the four pillars/elements of negligence:
First, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant owed the decedent a “duty of care.” An example of a duty of case is obeying traffic laws.
Secondly, as the plaintiff, you must prove that the defendant knowingly or negligently breached their duty of care to the deceased person. In other words, the defendant failed to provide a formal duty or reasonable care to the decedent.
The plaintiff must show that defendant caused the death in question due to their negligence. The death must be the result of the defendant’s actions and not some other cause.
The plaintiff must also show that decedent’s demise resulted in financial and/or emotional losses. Examples include loss of companionship and funeral expenses.
If all these four elements are true, you may claim damages through a wrongful death claim on the grounds of negligence.
Note that you can also file a wrongful death claim on the grounds of “strict liability” if your loved one was killed by a defective product or dog bite or mauling in California, even if the defendant was not negligent. Also, a person or party could be found liable for the wrongful death of your loved one even if they were acquitted in a related criminal case.
How Do You Start a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
The first step of starting a wrongful death claim is filing a lawsuit. The decedent’s lawyer and personal representatives need to:
Set Up Estate
Set up the estate in the deceased’s home county or where the decedent might have brought a personal injury lawsuit if they were alive. The lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date of the death.
Through the help of their lawyer, the decedent’s estate will conduct investigations into facts and circumstances surrounding the death.
Notify Liable Parties
After determining the at-fault party in the investigations, the attorney will inform the responsible party of their intentions to bring a lawsuit against them.
The defendant may approach you with an out-of-court settlement offer, you can take the deal or proceed with your lawsuit.
File the Claim
If negotiations don’t bear fruit, you can go ahead and file a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death attorney can help begin the claims process by filing a complaint that will be served to the defendant.
This step involves pre-trial, trial, and arbitration processes. During litigation, the parties will hold negotiations first before proceeding to trial if talks are not fruitful. The presiding judge or jury will render the final verdict determining the amount of settlement to be awarded as compensation at the end of the trial.
Contact an Experienced San Bernardino Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a dear person prematurely is a devastating experience. When a death occurs in avoidable circumstances, it is not only unbearable but also incredibly overwhelming. Situations like these usually leave the decedent’s family members with numerous questions about what to do and who to call for legal assistance.
The experienced San Bernardino wrongful death attorneys from Crockett Law Group can help you if you have lost a dear person to you due to someone else’s negligence. We are skilled and dedicated wrongful death attorneys and will guide and advise you throughout the entire claims process.