What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim comes about when an individual’s death results from another’s negligence or wrongful act. In Orange County, California, the law specifies that only certain relatives, such as a spouse, children, or dependents, can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit.

Consider a situation where a family member is killed in a car crash due to a reckless driver. The bereaved family faces not only emotional pain but also financial hardships like medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of income. A wrongful death lawsuit can offer financial relief and hold the responsible party accountable.

How Can I Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Case?

To prove negligence in a wrongful death case, it’s necessary to show that the defendant had a duty of care towards the deceased, breached that duty, and this breach directly led to the death. In a scenario involving a deadly car accident, the obligation of care is the driver’s responsibility to drive safely. If the driver was under the influence, they breached this duty. Proving this breach caused the fatal accident establishes negligence. A skilled lawyer can assist in gathering crucial evidence, such as accident reports, eyewitness accounts, and expert testimony, to strengthen the case.

What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect in a Wrongful Death Case?

Compensation in wrongful death cases can include economic damages like medical bills and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages for pain and suffering. For instance, if a family’s primary provider dies in an accident due to a defective product, they might receive compensation for the financial loss, medical expenses, funeral costs, and emotional trauma. In some instances, punitive damages might also be awarded to deter similar future misconduct.

What If the Deceased Was Partially at Fault?

In some wrongful death cases, the deceased might have been partially responsible for the incident. This concept, known as comparative negligence, can influence the compensation amount. For example, if a pedestrian is killed in a traffic accident but was found to be jaywalking, their contribution to the accident might reduce the family’s compensation. A competent lawyer can help navigate these complexities and ensure fair representation of the deceased’s fault.

What If the Wrongful Death Occurred at Work?

Workplace accidents can also lead to wrongful death claims. If a loved one dies due to a workplace accident or occupational disease, the family might be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits, covering funeral expenses, medical bills, and a portion of lost wages. However, a wrongful death lawsuit might be more suitable in cases of employer negligence or third-party fault.

What If the Wrongful Death Was Caused by a Criminal Act?

When a wrongful death stems from a criminal act, such as murder or manslaughter, the perpetrator may face criminal charges. However, a criminal conviction doesn’t guarantee financial compensation for the victim’s family. A separate civil lawsuit for wrongful death is necessary to seek monetary damages. For example, if a loved one is killed in a violent altercation, the perpetrator might face criminal charges, but the family can still pursue a civil claim for compensation, regardless of the criminal case’s outcome. A talented lawyer can guide you through this dual process, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive the compensation you deserve.

What If the Deceased Did Not Have a Will?

If the deceased didn’t leave a will, it complicates the wrongful death claim process. In California, intestate succession laws determine who can file a claim, typically including the deceased’s spouse, children, or parents. For example, if a single parent with minor children dies due to negligence, the children might be eligible to file a claim. However, as minors, they would need an adult, like a guardian or conservator, to file on their behalf.

What If the Wrongful Death Was Caused by a Government Entity?

If a loved one’s death was due to a negligent government entity or employee, you may still be able to file a wrongful death claim. However, these cases are subject to different rules and procedures.

For instance, in California, you typically have to file a claim with the government agency within six months of the death. Imagine a scenario where a loved one dies due to a poorly maintained city sidewalk. The family could potentially file a wrongful death claim against the city. However, they would need to act quickly and follow specific procedures.

What If the Wrongful Death Was Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death claims. If a loved one died because of a healthcare provider’s negligence, such as a surgical error or misdiagnosis, you might have grounds for a claim. However, these cases can be complex, often involving detailed medical information and expert testimony. Additionally, California caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, which can limit the compensation amount. An experienced lawyer can help you with these complexities, gather necessary evidence, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me in a Wrongful Death Case?

Handling a wrongful death claim can be complex and emotionally taxing. An experienced lawyer can provide essential support by managing legal intricacies, gathering evidence, negotiating with insurers, and representing you in court if needed. For example, in a medical malpractice-related death, the hospital and medical staff might have legal representation to protect their interests.

Having a competent lawyer can ensure fair representation and increase the chances of a favorable outcome. Additionally, a lawyer can help you understand the time limits for filing a wrongful death claim in California, typically two years from the death date. Missing this deadline could mean forfeiting the right to seek compensation.

If you have been affected by a wrongful death, call Gibson & Hughes today at (714) 406-0998 for a case evaluation.