I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer with decades of experience in personal injury and wrongful death claims, ranging from car accidents to deaths caused by medical malpractice. The loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another person or corporation causes emotional and economic suffering. In this post, we will answer some of your most pressing questions related to wrongful death cases.
Wrongful Death Lawyer | Everything You Need to Know
In this article:
- What Does “Wrongful Death” Mean?
- What Are Some Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
- Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
- What Is the Statute of Limitations For These Cases?
- What Kind of Damages Can I Claim?
- Should I Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
- Where Should I Hire a Lawyer?
- How Long Does it Take to Settle These Cases?
- Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Claim?
What Does “Wrongful Death” Mean?
In legal terms, “wrongful death” refers to a death caused by the negligence of another person or corporation. The causes of these types of cases can range from drunk driving accidents to medical malpractice. In California, the wrongful death law can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure sections 377.60-377.62, which includes information on who can claim for a wrongful death and the time limits associated with it.
What Are Some Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
Some common causes of wrongful death include:
- Automobile accidents, including those caused by a defect in the vehicle (e.g. faulty airbag)
- Medical negligence caused by drugs or defective medical equipment
- Deaths that occur at work from various causes
- Nursing home deaths caused by neglect or medical errors
- Construction site deaths, such as falling off scaffolds or trench cave-ins
- Deaths caused by defective products and/or defective warning labels
- Violence-related deaths
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
The heirs of a person who suffered from a wrongful death can sue the negligent party. They can work with an attorney who will take action on behalf of said heirs. California law clearly states who can file a claim for a wrongful death. These include:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Children of the marriage
- Putative spouse, children, and stepchildren: A putative spouse refers to someone who was not legally married to the deceased but believes in good faith they were married. An example of this is a marriage in line with the customs of a country but not considered legal in California. Under the wrongful death statute, the state recognizes these marriages.
- Parents of the deceased
- Minors, regardless of their relationship to the deceased, who have lived with the victim for 180 days before the wrongful death incident, and have been provided for by the deceased for at least 1/2 of support.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for These Cases?
Victims who suffer from wrongful death incidents can take legal action for up to two years after the incident occurred. However, if the case is against a public entity or medical malpractice, a claim has to be made within six months, then additional actions will be taken.
What Kind of Damages Can I Claim?
The recoverable damages for wrongful death cases under California law include:
- Loss of future financial support
- The loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship, comfort, affection, moral support, and for spouses, loss of consortium (romantic/sexual relationship)
- Loss of the victim’s care, training, and guidance as a parent
- The loss of household activities
- Costs of a funeral or burial
- Punitive damages may be recovered if the victim died as a result of a felony homicide.
- Medical expenses incurred before death can also be recovered and can be recovered in a “survival action,” which can be a cause of action on top of the wrongful death action.
Should I Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If your loved one passed away due to someone else’s carelessness or negligence, it is important to take quick action. The longer time passes, the higher the chances that insurance companies, hospitals, and other involved parties, take action to cover up or minimize their involvement in the incident. It is also essential to act quickly to avoid the loss of evidence or witnesses.
An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you with the legal aspects of the incident, such as filing for damages and receiving “just compensation” as determined by the law. In addition to providing legal help, they can also help those who have suffered on their road to recovery. This can include assistance in finding local support groups, grief counselors, and books that can aid recovery. While your attorney can’t remove the pain caused by the incident, good lawyers and firms will go above and beyond to help you work through the loss of a loved one.
Where Should I Hire a Lawyer?
Generally speaking, you should hire a wrongful death lawyer who is licensed in the state where the case is filed. Additionally, cases are generally filed in the state where the wrongful death incident occurred or in the state where the defendant resides.
How Long Does It Take to Settle These Cases?
The period involved in settling these types of cases still depends on certain factors but experienced wrongful death lawyers are experienced in putting pressure where needed to conclude the case as quickly as possible. These factors include:
- Whether or not negligence is clear or is still being disputed
- How much insurance the negligent party had
- The investigation into the economic losses to survivors, as determined by the deceased’s potential earnings and the value of benefits and pensions
Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Claim?
For deaths caused by auto accidents, the insurance of the driver-at-fault normally pays damages in the lawsuit. However, it is still a case-to-case basis depending on the situation. If the driver didn’t carry enough insurance, it may be possible to go after the driver’s personal assets, but this may be a complicated procedure your lawyer has to look over first. If the driver-at-fault is working when the incident occurred, the employer will also be involved.
For medical malpractice suits, the insurance company representing the doctor or the hospital will be responsible to pay for the damages.
Learn more about what can be recovered in a wrongful death claim in this video.
When hiring a wrongful death lawyer, be sure to work with someone who is experienced in handling wrongful death cases. You must also consider someone who will go above and beyond the legal aspects of your case so they can offer a personal approach to your claim. You can expect both from The Law Offices of Edward A. Smith, which specializes in personal injury and wrongful death claims. We also offer a holistic approach to cases, which means we will try to honor the psychological and spiritual aspects of your experience as we aid in your physical and financial recovery. Losing a loved one in a wrongful death incident is difficult, but our firm can help you recover from this loss and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Do you have any other questions about wrongful death claims? Let us know in the comments section below.
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