If you lose a family member unexpectedly at the hands of someone else’s negligent behavior, you may be struggling to pick up the pieces. You may need financial support to help you adjust after such a loss.
In a claim for wrongful death, recoverable damages may include compensation for both loss of financial and loss of emotional support. Although financial compensation cannot replace your loved one, it could help lessen your financial burden and give you space to grieve.
Read on to better understand who is eligible for compensation and how an attorney can help you through the process of a wrongful death claim.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Frederick Law Firm.
How Do I Know Whether I Have a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under California law, a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted when each of the following factors exists:
- The individual who caused the death owed your loved one a duty of care,
- They breached their duty through action or inaction,
- Their breach caused your loved one’s death, and
- You have suffered damages as a result.
An easier way of thinking about potential wrongful death claims is by considering the different scenarios that could give rise to a claim. These may include:
- Car accidents,
- Slip-and-fall accidents,
- Assault and battery,
- Murder or manslaughter (voluntary or involuntary),
- Elder abuse or neglect,
- Child abuse or neglect,
- Dog bites,
- Defective products, and
- Medical malpractice.
Remember, wrongful death claims are not the same as criminal charges filed by the State. In a criminal case, the defendant can be punished if convicted, but they likely won’t be required to pay any compensation to the victim’s family. Wrongful death claims, on the other hand, are filed in civil court by close family members of the deceased person and allow those family members to recover compensation for their losses. You can hold someone liable for wrongful death even if they were acquitted in a related criminal case.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under California law, for the most part, the following individuals may assert a wrongful death cause of action: the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and grandchildren (if the person’s children are deceased). Other individuals who are dependent on the decedent—such as stepchildren—may also be entitled to bring a claim.
These individuals may file a wrongful death claim on their own behalf, or the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring the action for them.
If there is no surviving spouse or children, others who would be entitled to inherit under state law may be able to bring a wrongful death claim.
It can be confusing to try to figure out who can bring a wrongful death claim after a loved one’s death. If you have questions about whether you qualify, consider contacting an attorney.
What Damages Are Available for Wrongful Death in CA?
Recoverable damages for wrongful death in California are intended to compensate loved ones for the value of the support they could reasonably have expected to receive from the deceased if they had lived. Every case is different, so it’s difficult to estimate the compensation you may be entitled to without reviewing your circumstances with an attorney. However, combining the total economic and non-economic damages you have suffered could lead you to an approximate value.
“Economic damages” in California include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- The financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetime;
- The loss of gifts or benefits the family members could have expected to receive; and
- The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided.
“Non-economic damages” can include compensation for:
- Loss of love and companionship;
- Loss of protection, affection, and moral support;
- Loss of training and guidance, and
- Loss of consortium.
Loss of consortium is for a spouse or registered domestic partner deprived of the companionship and intimacy of a partner due to someone’s wrongful act. Unfortunately, even if a loved one was present at the death of their loved one, non-economic damages are not available in California for the grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering caused by witnessing their loved one’s death.
There is no easy way to calculate how much non-economic damages are worth. A jury can award any reasonable amount based on the evidence and common sense.
Also important to the damages calculation is the period for recoverable damages. Family members may be eligible for the financial support the deceased would have contributed to them during their lifetime, but how long is “their lifetime?” Ultimately, a person’s life expectancy is a question for the jury. When deciding their potential life expectancy, the jury will consider the decedent’s health, lifestyle, and occupation.
Do You Need an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Claim
You are not required to have an attorney to file a wrongful death claim. However, there are many benefits to having one. An attorney can help you with difficult legal tasks such as:
- Investigating your claim and gathering evidence,
- Negotiating with other parties and insurance companies,
- Obtaining expert testimony, and
- Representing you in court.
A wrongful death attorney will also typically pay for the upfront costs of litigation so you can afford to prosecute your claim. If you win or settle your claim, you’ll pay these costs and your attorney fees from the compensation you receive.
A California Attorney Who Knows Wrongful Death Claims
Legal action is inconvenient in most circumstances, but after a wrongful death, it could be overwhelming. It might feel impossible to pick up the phone and contact an attorney, but you won’t regret doing so. We invite you to contact our office so we can handle your claim and everything in between in a compassionate and professional manner. At the Frederick Law Firm, we are compassionate lawyers who want to fight for your rights. We have over 40 years of experience helping victims recover compensation for wrongful death and other injuries. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation.