In the event of a tragic death, a wrongful death claim can be sought after as a legal remedy. Damages in a wrongful death case usually are divided into two categories, which are generally defined by two distinct time frames.
The first category of damages are related to immediate costs and reprimands at the time or soon after the accident. These damages can include physical pain and suffering, lost wages, and funeral and burial expenses.
The second category of damages are related to the time after death. The laws vary in each state, however generally, if the defendant is held responsible, damages are intended to replicate the value of that deceased earning potential if she/he had not died. It can include lost wages for the full average working lifetime of that deceased.
All the accident types you see in our practice area pages can result in a wrongful death action. Some common examples include:
There are many factors that surround the details of a wrongful death case:
Depending on the details of each case, courts may award punitive damages to the surviving family members if the defendant was particularly reckless in his/her conduct that results directly in the person’s death. For example, a drunk driver who skips lanes and has a head-on collision with an incoming car.
In a wrongful death claim, another person or entity can be found to be legally responsible for the death of an individual. The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is a relatively new concept in our country, but one that the state of California recognizes as being crucial to ensuring that even in a civil capacity, those responsible for the untimely death of another are held responsible. Historically, the “common law” as brought to the colonies from England did not allow for this kind of lawsuit. However, during the last century, both state and federal courts have created the right to bring about actions pertaining to wrongful death. At this point, every state in the country now has some kind of wrongful death law. As mentioned, California is no exception.
A wrongful death claim must involve a fatal accident, the likes of which can range from car accidents to medical malpractice or liability cases, e.g. when a manufacturer’s product is at fault, and causes a fatality. Individuals, companies, and even government entities can be found to be legally responsible for negligence (failing to act as a reasonable person would have acted), or for acting with intention.
A wrongful death claim must be filed by a representative of the survivors of the deceased who have somehow suffered damage due to the death of their loved ones. These survivors are called the “real parties of interest.” While the representative of the survivors is often the executor of the deceased person’s will/estate, the “real parties of interest” can include immediate family members (spouses, children, parents), domestic or life partners, financial dependents, putative spouses (a person who, in good faith, believed that he or she was married to the deceased), distant family members (brothers, sisters, grandparents), and all persons who suffer financially due to the untimely death of the victim.
It is important to note that the loss of a fetus either as a result of medical malpractice or a car accident, or any other accident may seem like something that can be litigated, but per the State of California, it is not because wrongful death only applies to instances in which a birthed human being has died.
You can seek competent legal counsel elsewhere, or you can hire us to help ensure your case is handled with the utmost care and attention. We understand that in these types of cases, legal and often non-legal assistance is required and appreciated. Because of the myriad of devastating yet crucial circumstances that can surround a person’s death, it may be in your best interest to consult our knowledgeable attorneys about how we can best serve you.