No one can ever prepare for losing a loved one unexpectedly. This loss is made all the more traumatic when you learn that their death was avoidable and caused by someone else’s negligence.
If you lose a loved one in an accident, an attorney can help. You may have the right to file a wrongful death claim and recover damages.
Read on to learn more about a wrongful death lawsuit in California and how an experienced attorney can help you.
6 Things to Know About a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California
It’s an emotionally challenging ordeal to lose a loved one due to a wrongful act. Understanding useful facts about wrongful death cases in California may help better prepare you for the road ahead.
1. Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases encompass various types of tragic scenarios. The most common types of wrongful death cases include the following:
- Car accidents,
- Truck accidents,
- Pedestrian accidents,
- Motorcycle accidents,
- Medical malpractice,
- Defective products, and
- Workplace accidents.
Your attorney knows how to determine the cause of your loved one’s death and who may be responsible.
2. Who Is Liable?
Wrongful death claims in California require establishing that the alleged liable party was negligent.
Negligence consists of four elements that your attorney works to prove:
- Duty: The alleged liable party owed a duty of care to the decedent;
- Breach: The responsible party breached this duty of care;
- Causation: The breach caused the wrongful death; and
- Damages: The wronged party suffered damages as a result of the breach.
While the elements of negligence appear straightforward, proving them with evidence is challenging without a qualified wrongful death attorney.
Failing to prove negligence could mean you recover less than you deserve or nothing at all.
3. Only Certain People May File
Only certain individuals can file a wrongful death claim in California. Understanding whether you are permitted by law to file on behalf of your loved one’s estate requires the help of an experienced lawyer.
Avoid delays with your wrongful death case by confirming your eligibility with an attorney before attempting to file suit.
4. Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for any case is the period of time you have to file your lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years from the date of death.
While exceptions may apply in limited circumstances, relying on them is never recommended. Your attorney ensures your case is on track and always meets important statutory and procedural deadlines.
Failing to file within two years usually forever bars you from recovering any money for your losses.
5. Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit? In a wrongful death claim, the surviving loved ones receive the settlement or judgment proceeds.
Individuals entitled to receive proceeds include a spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, and others who depended on the decedent for support.
Courts may also divide settlement or judgment proceeds amongst these parties.
6. Who Can File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death?
California law limits the approved individuals that may file a wrongful death lawsuit for their loved one. The permitted parties include the following individuals:
- The surviving spouse, putative spouse, or domestic partner of the victim;
- The victim’s surviving children;
- The victim’s parents; and
- Other heirs of the victim.
Your attorney analyzes your case to determine if you are permitted by law to file a lawsuit for wrongful death on behalf of your loved one.
Particularly when a decedent was unmarried and did not have children, identifying who is entitled to file a claim may become complicated and require legal counsel.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take?
How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take? Every wrongful death case comes with its own set of unique facts and circumstances.
An attorney rarely wants to provide clients with an expectation as to how long their case could take because unforeseen matters can come up and turn that prediction on its head.
A case may initially appear to be straightforward and simple. But if the liable party or insurance company refuses to cooperate during negotiations, the case gets a lot more complicated.
If negotiations fail, the case may need to go to trial. A trial takes a great deal of preparation, so the need for a trial can significantly delay the resolution of your case.
Even if it does not go to trial, settling your case takes time as your attorney conducts a thorough investigation. Failure to fully explore the scope of your damages and injuries may result in a settlement value far less than you deserve.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Wrongful death lawsuits represent a complex area of personal injury law.
With so much at stake, receiving far less than you and your family deserve for the loss of your loved one could be devastating. Wrongful death survivors are entitled to receive economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages include the following types of calculable losses:
- Financial support,
- Medical expenses of the deceased up until their passing,
- Burial expenses for the deceased,
- The value of household services the deceased could have provided if they lived, and
- The loss of any benefits and gifts survivors would have received from the deceased.
Calculating the true value of these damages is important, as the compensation can help survivors move forward with their lives after such a devastating loss.
Noneconomic damages include the following types of intangible losses:
- Loss of the decedent’s love, protection, society, and companionship;
- Loss of decedent’s moral support; and
- Loss of consortium.
No amount of money could ever replace your loved one. The purpose of wrongful death claims is to assist survivors in moving forward with their lives with the financial support they would have received had the decedent lived.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, the attorneys at the Weinberg Law Offices are equipped to take on many cases, including, but not limited to, car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, and more.
We understand the gravity of your loss and the stress level you must be experiencing. We get to work so you and your family can begin healing.