Losing a spouse, parent, child, or another close family member is always difficult. A loss can be magnified, however, if the death occurred because of a sudden and ultimately preventable accident. Such accidental deaths are more common than you may imagine; the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention (CDC) reports that accidental injury is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 130,000 fatalities on an annual basis.
When another person or party is to blame for a tragic accident, California law gives certain surviving family members certain legal rights. In many situations, those family members can file a legal claim for wrongful death in civil court and seek financial recovery for their losses. While money will never completely make up for your loss, it can help you move forward with fewer financial concerns and with a greater sense of justice regarding the death.
Wrongful death laws in California can be complicated, however, so it’s important to have your situation reviewed by an experienced wrongful death attorney if you have tragically lost a loved one. The attorneys at GJEL have a thorough understanding of California wrongful death laws and can help you through every step of your case.
Who can Recover for a Wrongful Death?
California law is very specific when it comes to who has the right to file a claim for wrongful death. For example, while the loss of your best friend may cause you significant emotional pain, friends are not able to seek recovery for a wrongful death in California. The following are the family members who may be able to file this type of claim:
- Spouse or domestic partner;
- Biological or adopted children;
- Stepchildren, if they were financially dependent on the deceased person;
- Parents, if they were financially dependent on the deceased person;
- Parents of a deceased minor or unmarried child; or
- If no one else is eligible, anyone who would be considered an “heir” under California law.
In addition, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased person can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of any of the above qualifying parties. Determining who qualifies to file a wrongful death claim can be confusing and an experienced lawyer can evaluate your position in such a case.
What are the Causes of Wrongful Death?
A “wrongful” death is one that occurs due to the negligence or intentional act of another party. The negligent or wrongful party can be another individual, several people, a corporation, or a government entity. Parties can be negligent or harmful in many different ways and, therefore, each wrongful death case will have a unique set of circumstances with unique legal issues that may arise.
The following are only some examples of common causes of wrongful death in California:
- Traffic-related accidents including crashes involving cars, commercial trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, or pedestrians;
- Falls from heights, on stairs, or serious slip and fall accidents on even ground;
- Accidents in the workplace including motor vehicle accidents, equipment malfunctions or construction accidents;
- Injuries caused by dangerous or defective products, including pharmaceuticals, household appliances, auto parts, child products, and recreational or sports equipment;
- Medical malpractice including birth injuries, misdiagnosis, medication errors and surgical errors;
- Drownings in swimming pools or deaths caused by ocean accidents, boat accidents, or watersporting accidents;
- Burns caused by fires, scalds, or electrocutions; or
- Violent acts such as gunshot wounds, stabbings, or other serious assaults.
Not every accident will give rise to a wrongful death claim, however. If the accident was no one’s fault and was unavoidable, the death will not be considered to be legally wrongful. Instead, you must prove that someone was negligent or wrongful in causing the accident. Some examples of negligence can include distracted or drunk driving, failing to maintain a property, selling defective products, and more. Proving negligence can be complex and can require significant evidence. An experienced wrongful death attorney at GJEL Accident Attorneys can help you succeed.
When Should You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
California only gives you a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim, so you should avoid delay in discussing a possible case with a skilled attorney. While the law gives you two years to file a lawsuit, these cases can require significant preparation and investigation; it’s important to give your legal team sufficient time to prepare a successful claim. For this reason, you should consult with a wrongful death law firm as soon as you think you may have a valid claim.
Benefits of Wrongful Death Claims
Many surviving family members wonder if it is really worth it to go through the legal process of a wrongful death claim. It is always worth considering, as there are many different benefits, including the following:
- Reimbursement for expenses paid for funeral services, and burial costs.
- Compensation for the income your loved one would have earned had they lived and continued working.
- Compensation for lost financial support and household services.
- Compensation for loss of affection, love, guidance, and moral support.
Many damages available in wrongful death cases are intangible and do not have a concrete value attached. Therefore, you need an experienced lawyer who understands how to calculate the full amount of recovery that you deserve in your particular case. The value of a wrongful death case can vary widely from case to case depending on many factors, including the age and health of the victim, dependence of the surviving family members on the victim, and more.
Find out How a California Wrongful Death Attorney can Help You
At the offices of GJEL Accident Attorneys, we understand how difficult and tragic it can be to unexpectedly lose a loved one due to someone else’s behavior. We know that your focus should be on your family and your emotional well-being, so we will handle every step of your wrongful death case with as little stress on you as possible. Please call for a free consultation today at 866-218-3776.