Wrongful Death Effects Families In Many Different Ways.
The death of a family member is a very emotional and traumatic loss. This is especially true when a loved one's death is caused by someone else's negligence or by a manufactured product.
At Arellanez Legal we understand grieving families need time to heal. Families adjusting to a loved one's passing may have to contend with the loss of income, loss of support and funeral costs.
This may prompt some families to contact a wrongful death attorney. Arellanez Legal is a compassionate and carrying law firm dedicated to helping families through difficult matters. Arellanez Legal offers free consultations for those surviving family members that need to speak with an attorney regarding their rights.
What is Wrongful Death?
Accidents leading to the death of an individual can be caused by negligent acts, willful acts, or by manufactured products. California law allows a surviving spouse (i.e. the spouse that did not pass away) or other surviving family to recover damages if it's proven the defendant is responsible for or contributed to the death.
Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure ("CCP") § 377.60, certain family members may sue a negligent party for causing or contributing to the death of a decedent (i.e. the loved one that passed away).
Can You File A Wrongful Death Claim?
A party wishing to file a wrongful death claim must be eligible to file a claim. According to CCP § 377.60 those that may be eligible include:
- The decedents surviving spouse;
- The decedents domestic partner;
- The decedents surviving children;
- Parents of deceased minor children;
- Parents of deceased adult children who have no descendants;
- The legal guardians of a decedent as if they were the decedent's parents;
- A putative spouse, the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid; and
- Those entitled to the decedents property by intestate succession.
In some situations, minors living with the decedent for at least 180 days before death and dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor's support may be eligible. Further, a survivor action may be available.
What Is A Survivor Action?
A survivor action, authorized by CCP § 377.30, allows a decedent's estate to seek compensation for their losses. A surviving family member may bring a wrongful death claim, while a representative of an estate may file a survival action.
It's possible for both a wrongful death and survivor action to be filed at the same time. For example, if the decedent established a trust to provides for the needs of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse and the estate could file separate claims.
The survival action allows the decedent's estate to recover some damages that would have been available had the decedent survived. Compensation might include medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage for the estate if damages were sustained after a wrongful act but before the resulting death. Normally damages for pain and suffering are not available despite the estate bringing the action on behalf of the decedent. However, Senate Bill Number 477, now codified at CCP § 377.34 as amended, permits such damages but does not go into effect until January 1, 2022.
The Common Types of Wrongful Death Cases.
Some of the most common accidents result in wrongful death such as the following:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Injuries from a slip and fall;
- Medical malpractice accidents;
- Construction accidents;
- Intentional torts (e.g. Battery);
- Negligent security;
- Nursing home abuse;
- Firearm accidents; and
- Criminal acts.
Wrongful death claims are covered by civil law and not criminal law. As such, wrongful death claims are proven by a preponderance of the evidence and not by a reasonable doubt standard. A civil law plaintiff would have to convenience the jury (i.e. the fact finder) that there is a greater than 50% chance the claim is true.
What Compensation Is Available For A Wrongful Death Claim?
The following are some economic and non-economic damages that may be available for a wrongful death claim:
- Lost future earnings of the decedent based on expected life span and income level;
- Lost benefits such as medical coverage and pension benefits.
- Funeral costs and burial expenses;
- Loss of services (e.g. housework, childcare, etc.); and
- Loss of consortium (e.g. loss of intimacy).
Proving A Wrongful Death Claim.
To prevail on a wrongful death claim the elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages must be met.
- Duty - Did the defendant(s) owe a duty to exercise a standard of reasonable care?
- Breach -- Did the defendant(s) violate the duty by failing to act as a reasonably prudent person in the same situation?
- Causation - Is there a causal link between the harm and was the harm foreseeable?
- Damages - Was the plaintiff damaged by the harm?
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Claim?
The period of time in which a wrongful death claim must be filed is two (2) years from the date on injury.
How Soon Should I Contact An Attorney?
We recommend contacting an attorney soon after the death of a loved. A wrongful death claim requires commitment, preparation and a strategy to obtain the best results possible. It's best to allow an experienced attorney to handle your claim while you and your family focuses on healing.
Contact A Wrongful Death Attorney.
It's very important to discuss your wrongful death claim with a qualified attorney. At Arellanez Legal our nurse-paralegals work with Michael Arellanez to review your medical records to obtain favorable outcomes. Contact Arellanez Legal by calling (951)888-2464 for a free consultation or by providing a date and time that will work for you via our easy-to-use contact page.