What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a fairly new concept. It can happen when a person dies due to someone else’s legal fault. According to the laws of California, people, organizations, and even entities can be held legally at fault if their proven negligence results in damages and death to other parties. This type of claim can encompass all types of fatalities; from car accidents up to product liability incidents. In fact, some of the most common wrongful death claims that Jacoby & Meyers have worked on include the following situations:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Contracting a disease or illness
- Public transportation (airplane, train, bus, boat, etc)
- Tourism / activities (scuba diving, rock climbing, skydiving, etc)
- Excessive force by police or security professionals
- Unsafe conditions at fairs or amusement parks
- Lack of care in supervised activities
- Dangerous conditions on public or private property
- Dangerous roads or defective construction
- Poorly performed maintenance or repairs
- Defective products
As long as a death is involved and you believe that someone else caused it, you can have a case.
Elements Of A Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim can only proceed if it has the following elements:
- Duty of Care – The defendant was in a position where they must have acted responsibly towards the deceased.
- Breach of Duty of Care – the defendant owed a duty of care but violated or breached it.
- Causation – The plaintiff must have proof that the defendant’s breach of duty caused the deceased’s death.
These are also elements in any personal injury case. However, in a wrongful death case, these elements would have resulted in a person’s death instead of an injury.
Another factor to consider in a wrongful death claim is the statute of limitations. This is the deadline to file a case after the accident and death happened. In California, the usual deadline is within two years of the date of death. However, there are exceptions. If the claim is being filed against the government, the time allocation is shorter, so a case must be filed within six months of the injury or death. In all cases, it’s better to file sooner than later, so you don’t lose your opportunity for compensation.
Who Can File this type of Claim In California?
Usually, you have to be a family member of the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The deceased’s immediate family members have a greater chance of having their cases heard. A family member is most likely to receive compensation from a successful wrongful death claim, such as:
- The surviving spouse of the decedent
- The domestic partner of the decedent
- Children of the decedent
- Those who would be entitled to the deceased’s estate “by intestate succession”
The court recognizes that these family members are the ones who suffer financial, emotional, and social loss from the death of a loved one. For example, the death of a loved one from an accident can mean the loss of a main source of income. Worse, damages beyond financial aspects such as loss of companionship are factors that the court also takes into consideration.
How To File A Wrongful Death Claim
You can file a wrongful death claim if a person died due to the negligence, carelessness, or “wrongful act” of someone else. Likewise, a prosecutor can bring charges and start a criminal trial against the at-fault party in the case of intentional or negligent homicide. However, family members of the deceased can also file a wrongful death lawsuit against the party responsible for the death.
First, you must determine if a wrongful death claim is applicable to your case. If you meet the right conditions, you can begin filing documents for the civil lawsuit. Here are the following documents you need to file:
- Complaint or petition – this notifies the defendant of the case’s factual and legal ground
- Summons – notifies the defendant about the lawsuit and where it’ll be heard
After filing the lawsuit, you must give the relevant documents to the defendants through a process called “service of process.” Procedures can change per state, so take note of what rules apply where you live.
How Long Does It Take To Settle a Wrongful Death Claims?
The severity and complexity of wrongful death cases differ from one case to another. Due to the many intricate factors considered in such cases, settlement timelines can also vary. Some cases can settle fast, but some can take months or even years. However, the average time to settle wrongful death lawsuits can range from around one to four years. This can greatly depend on the circumstances of your case as some cases require more intensive investigations, more resources, research and even experts to prove liability.
How Is this different from a Survival Action Lawsuit?
A wrongful death claim revolves around the bereaved family members of the deceased person. This type of civil lawsuit allows close family members to file for damages that they endured due to their relatives passing. These damages can include the following:
- Grief and suffering that the family has endured
- Economic losses or income that the family has lost due to the death of their loved one
- Funeral expenses
- Medical bills that may have resulted from the victim’s accident or injury
On the other hand, a survival action lawsuit revolves around the suffering of the deceased person rather than the grief and losses of their family. In a survival action lawsuit, the decedent’s family may demand to recover damages that the victim had endured if they had actually survived the accident. In other terms, the family of the deceased can recover damages that the victim would have been entitled to if they had survived and filed a personal injury lawsuit.
When possible, a wrongful death lawyer can work with families to combine a survival action with a wrongful death lawsuit. This can help assure that the family can recover the full damages owed from their loved one’s death.
Get a Lawyer for Your Wrongful Death Claim in California
People hire a wrongful death lawyer because they are entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering associated with a loss of life. In some cases, a defendant can get tried in a criminal court of law and found innocent of criminal charges. However, a wrongful death lawyer can help prove that the defendant is guilty of wrongful death charges.
If you’re looking for a skilled and experienced accident wrongful death attorney to help you, look no further than Jacoby and Meyers. We have a team of the best personal injury or auto accident lawyers in California, including Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, and Sacramento. Hire one of our wrongful death lawyers to help you get justice. Also, they can help you get the compensation you rightfully deserve, including car accident settlements and more. In addition, they can help you:
- Prove negligence
- Define the Cost of Damages
- Build a strong claim
- Negotiate a Settlement
- Proceed with important deadlines in mind
Give us a call today at 888-960-0480 for a free consultation. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.