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Eventually, everyone grieves the loss of a loved one. And while death is one of life’s inevitabilities, some lives are cut short by negligence. As a surviving family member, how are you supposed to move on when you know your loved one died because of someone else?
Although nothing will bring your loved one back, there are things you can do to set things right and ease the financial burden left by their passing.
If your loved one died because of someone’s negligent actions, you may be able to find justice and secure compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. As trusted wrongful death attorneys, we’d like to share some advice: If you’re going to pursue a lawsuit for your loved one’s death, do everything you can to maximize your claim.
We say that because it’s never easy to relive the details of a family member’s death, and while an experienced attorney will shield you from as much as they can, filing a wrongful death claim can be an emotionally draining process. However, it’s not one you have to go through alone.
In this article, we’ll explore the nature of wrongful death lawsuits in California and give our expert advice on maximizing your claim, including proven strategies and essential elements.
Are you struggling to put your life back together after the untimely death of a loved one? If your family member died as a result of someone’s recklessness, you may be able to pursue compensation from them. Call our law office at (949) 409-0055 to get started.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
When an accidental or intentional act causes the death of a family member, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. In California, a wrongful death lawsuit is designed to compensate survivors of the decedent (deceased person) for losses they suffer as a result of the death.
It’s important to note that just because your loved one died in an accident doesn’t necessarily mean you have a wrongful death claim. To file a wrongful death claim, your loved one’s death must have been caused because of the misconduct of another person or entity.
Wrongful death claims typically result from things like negligence-based incidents (including car accidents, hazardous premises, and defective products), medical malpractice, and even intentional acts. It’s important to note that wrongful death claims arising from intentional acts are still civil actions and completely separate from any criminal proceedings that may also occur.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
According to California’s wrongful death statute, a handful of different people can bring a wrongful death claim. You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if you’re one of the following:
- A surviving spouse, domestic partner, or child. In California, a decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner, surviving spouse, or children of a deceased child of the decedent have the priority to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- A beneficiary of the decedent. If there are no survivors in the first group, anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession” can bring a wrongful death lawsuit, according to Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 377.60. This group may include the decedent’s parents and siblings.
- Financial dependents. If a person can show they were financially dependent on the decedent, they may also bring a wrongful death claim. The decedent’s putative spouse (person who mistakenly believed they were lawfully married to the decedent), the decedent’s stepchildren, and the decedent’s legal guardians are included in this group.
As you can see, determining eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit isn’t always straightforward. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re eligible to bring a claim, it’s a good idea to consult a wrongful death lawyer.
How to Prove Wrongful Death
It’s important to understand that proving wrongful death can be difficult. To secure a settlement, you must demonstrate a handful of crucial elements. Specifically, you’ll need to prove the existence of the following four:
- Negligence. The first thing you’ll need to demonstrate is that the defendant acted negligently, meaning that they acted recklessly or carelessly.
- Breach of duty. The next thing you’ll need to prove is that the defendant owed a duty of care and breached that duty. A breach of duty means acting in a way or failing to act in a way that another reasonable person wouldn’t have.
- Causation. After you’ve established negligence and breach of duty, you’ll need to show that the defendant’s negligent actions are what caused your loved one’s death. Proving this does not require proving intent to cause harm or death.
- Damages. The final key element to demonstrate is that you suffered losses as a result of your loved one’s death. Damages can be both economic and non-economic, although the latter are more difficult to calculate and prove.
If you have evidence of all four elements, you likely have a strong wrongful death claim. The next thing you’ll want to do is strategize with your attorney about how to maximize your settlement.
How to Maximize Your Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
After establishing your eligibility to file a wrongful death claim and confirming the presence of all four key criteria, you’ll want to start calculating your damages. Before doing so, understand this: Calculating all of your damages isn’t as easy as it looks, and without help from a wrongful death lawyer, you’ll almost certainly miss something.
To truly maximize your claim, you’ll need to partner with a wrongful death lawyer with experience trying and winning cases like yours. After thoroughly examining your case, they will help you compile a comprehensive list of economic and non-economic damages. Your final settlement may compensate you for a wide range of losses, including the following:
- Financial support. Financial support the decedent would have provided you with in their lifetime.
- Monetary value. The estimated monetary value of benefits and gifts you would have received
- Funeral expenses. Funeral and burial expenses, as well as medical bills (related to the accident that ultimately killed the decedent)
- Potential household contributions. The estimated monetary value that the decedent would have provided to the household through chores, childcare, etc.
- Loss of emotional support. Compensation for your loss of affection, help, care, comfort, support and protection
- Intangible losses. Compensation for loss of consortium
These are just some of the potential damages you could receive in a wrongful death lawsuit, and a comprehensive calculation of your losses may include many more. Your attorney will go through a complete list of possible damages with you to ensure you capitalize on everything you’re owed.
Case Barnett Law: Trusted Wrongful Death Attorneys in California
Here’s the reality: There’s no amount of money in the world that could replace your loved one and no amount of justice that could bring them back. However, that doesn’t mean you should suffer financially in their wake—especially if someone’s negligence caused their death.
One way that we can help you is by providing an opportunity to secure compensation. With a comprehensive settlement award, you’ll have time to start the healing process without worrying about whether you can afford to grieve fully.When you’re ready to get started, Case Barnett Law is here for you. Contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation, or call us at (949) 409-0055 to speak with a compassionate wrongful death lawyer today.