Wrongful Death Attorneys Serving Santa Maria
Losing a loved one can be unimaginably painful and profoundly affect your entire family. California law allows surviving family members or a deceased person’s estate to sue for damages when someone dies due to someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. Wrongful death lawsuits give aggrieved families a way to seek justice for a loved one’s tragic death. While a lawsuit can never make up for what’s been lost, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can also help family members lessen the financial burdens associated with funeral costs and other expenses. If you’ve recently experienced a wrongful death, working with a Santa Maria wrongful death lawyer now can help ease your financial burdens down the road.
At Frederick Law Firm, we have over 37 years of experience helping people who have lost a loved one get the financial compensation they are entitled to. Our team offers the high-quality representation you expect from a large firm but with the personal care and attention that only a smaller firm can provide. Contact us today.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person or entity’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct causes another person’s death. A criminal prosecution often follows a wrongful death. A civil lawsuit is a separate action brought alongside criminal charges. In a wrongful death civil suit, the standard of proof is lower than in a criminal case for murder or manslaughter. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a defendant to be found guilty. In a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff must only establish the defendant is liable for their loved one’s death by a preponderance of the evidence.
Causes of Wrongful Death
In the United States, the leading causes of wrongful death are:
- Auto accidents,
- Bicycle accidents,
- Truck accidents,
- Criminal acts,
- Defective products, and
- Work-related and construction accidents.
Other causes of wrongful death include occupational exposure to dangerous chemicals, accidents on someone’s property like slip and falls, drowning, boating accidents, and airplane accidents.
Proving Wrongful Death
In Santa Maria, negligence is the most common basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. A party or entity’s failure to act reasonably or according to the applicable standard of care may amount to negligence if that failure results in injury or harm to a person.
To prove a party’s negligence, a victim must establish four elements:
- Duty. The victim’s family must show the defendant owed the victim a legal duty of care. This means the defendant had a responsibility to act the way another reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances would have acted.
- Breach. The victim’s family must show the defendant breached their duty of care by acting or failing to act the way a reasonable party in the same or similar situation would have.
- Causation. The victim’s family must show the defendant’s breach caused or substantially contributed to the victim’s death and that the death would not have happened but for the defendant’s breach of duty.
- Damages. A victim’s family must be able to prove they suffered losses because of the defendant’s wrongful act.
In a wrongful death case, a victim’s family does not have to show the defendant meant to kill the victim. Nor do they have to prove the defendant intentionally harmed the victim. Let’s suppose the claimant can show the defendant acted negligently or recklessly, that those actions were the factual cause of the victim’s death, and that surviving family members suffered a monetary injury because of their loved one’s death. In that case, family members can bring a wrongful death claim. An experienced Santa Maria wrongful death lawyer can help you determine the cause of your loved one’s death and whether the defendant could have prevented it with reasonable care.
Damages Resulting from Wrongful Death
If you are wondering what to do about wrongful death, talking to a Santa Maria wrongful death attorney about filing a claim for damages is an excellent first step. Courts award damages in a wrongful death case to compensate heirs for the support they would have received if the victim had lived. Wrongful death damages usually include economic and noneconomic losses and, in rare cases, exemplary damages. Economic damages are the tangible costs associated with the death and can include but are not limited to the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- The financial support the victim would have contributed to the victim’s heirs over their lifetime if they had lived,
- The loss of gifts or benefits the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased, and
- The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided.
Items such as bills, invoices, and pay stubs can help your attorney accurately calculate your economic damages.
Noneconomic damages are compensation for subjective, non-monetary losses, including the loss of the victim’s:
- Moral support,
- Training and guidance, and
- Sexual relations.
Noneconomic damages do not include an award for the pain and suffering, grief, or sorrow a loved one’s death caused an heir.
The amount of noneconomic damages awarded in a California wrongful death case will depend on the unique facts of the case. A jury typically awards a reasonable amount based on the evidence presented. An experienced wrongful death attorney can collect and present evidence to help strengthen your claim.
In a personal injury lawsuit, a victim’s family can also ask for punitive damages, also called exemplary damages in California. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant whose behavior was particularly malicious, intentional, or reckless. A jury can award punitive damages if the claimant proves clearly and convincingly that the defendant’s actions met this standard.
The Frederick Law Firm Can Help
If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, the Frederick Law Firm can help you hold the responsible party accountable. When you choose the Frederick Law Firm, you are choosing a group of fierce advocates who have achieved proven results for their clients throughout California. With over three decades of demonstrated experience, the Frederick Law Firm can provide the compassionate guidance and aggressive representation you need when pursuing a wrongful death claim. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.