It is often unfortunate when a loved one succumbs to death because of another person’s negligence. Wrongful death laws of California allow families to recover damages for the loved ones who die from another person’s actions or negligence. Compensation for wrongful death is done in a personal injury claim filed by the surviving relatives of the deceased. Wrongful death occurs in many different ways, including medical malpractice, car accidents, and defective products, among others. If your loved one dies as a result of another person’s negligence, you are entitled to receive the damages for wrongful death. We at the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm will help you to file a personal injury claim of wrongful death.
Overview of Wrongful Death in California
In California, wrongful death occurs when your loved one succumbs to the injuries caused by another person’s negligence. This will allow compensation for burial and funeral expenses incurred by the family. A successful wrongful death lawsuit can allow you to recover compensation for the financial support that would be provided by the deceased. Also, you might get benefits for the lost companionship that was provided by the deceased to the family.
The family members allowed to file wrongful death, under California Civil Code 377.60, include the following:
- Children of the deceased
- Grandchildren of if his/her children are also deceased
- Spouses and domestic partners
- Minors who were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support
- Any individual who is legally entitled to the property of the deceased under California Succession law.
In most cases, wrongful death occurs as a result of the negligence of another person other than the deceased. When the fault is established, the negligent party will be held liable for the accident or wrongful death. Wrongful acts resulting in death may include:
- Car Accidents
There are many ways in which a car accident will cause death. Car accidents that could be fatal are head-on collisions, hit and run car accidents as well as rear-end car collisions. When you file a personal injury claim for wrongful death, the court will determine fault to find out who was at fault. In most cases, the responsibility will be determined through negligence. All road users have to ensure their conduct does not pose a threat to others. Breach of the duty of care is what constitutes negligence and the basis for personal injury claims. Some of the actions or neglect that could cause deadly accidents may include:
- Over speeding
- Running a red light
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Distracted driving
- Failing to yield the right way
When the fault is determined, the negligent driver will be liable for the wrongful death. When your loved one dies from a car accident caused by another person, you can file a personal injury claim to seek compensation. When pursuing a wrongful death claim, hiring a personal injury attorney to guide you will increase your chances of a fair settlement in the suit.
- Slip and Fall Accidents
Property owners must ensure the safety of people who enter their premises. Some conditions on the property, such as poorly maintained and slippery floors, can pose a risk to the occupants. If the respondent failed to create an adequate environment, that could be a wrongful act contributing to the accident. Sometimes the slip and fall accidents can be severe, and the injuries suffered from the accident could lead to death. If it is proven that a property owner breached their duty of care, and as a result, your loved one died, you can claim compensation.
- Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of wrongful death in California. A respondent is considered to have committed medical malpractice when their negligent or an omission when rendering medical care cause injuries and wrongful death. As long as the services were within the scope of the license, you can sue the individual for the wrongful death. Wrongful death by medical malpractice can be committed by medical practitioners: nurses, doctors, pharmacists, chiropractors, among others.
Medical procedures, such as surgeries, could go wrong as a result of negligence or ignorance. Also, the wrong prescriptions can cause an overdose of medication, which could be fatal. If your loved one succumbs to death as a result of medical malpractice, you are entitled to compensation in a wrongful death claim.
- Defective Products
Defective products cause thousands of injuries every year. Some of the products sold to the public have defects that can cause severe bodily injuries or even death. Three types of product defects can cause injury or death to consumers of these products. They include:
- Design defects. These are defects that occur in the initial design of the product. Even after proper manufacture and marketing, the product can still cause injuries or death.
- Manufacturing defects. A manufacturing defect is the most common type of error in products. The manufacturer may claim that the designed product was safe. However, something may go wrong in the manufacturing process, making the product unsafe for human use.
- Labeling defects. Sometimes the products pose some danger to humans, and the manufacturers failed to warn consumers. If your loved one succumbs to death as a result of labeling or marketing defects, you can claim compensation in a wrongful death claim.
If your loved one died from the effects of a defective product, you could seek compensation. By filing a wrongful death personal injury claim, you will get compensation from the manufacturers, designers, or distributors of the product.
- Work-Related Accidents
At your workplace, you are entitled to work in safe environments and get warnings for anything that poses a risk to your life. Failure of your employer to provide safe conditions to work can result in severe injuries or even death. Primarily where employees work with heavy machinery, the employer needs to make sure that all employees take safety measures. Poor and unsafe working conditions are considered a wrongful act, and any death occurring from this action is wrongful death. If your loved one succumbs to injuries at the workplace, you are entitled to compensation for wrongful death. Proving liability in such cases can be quite challenging, and it would be helpful to seek legal representation from a personal injury attorney.
- Exposure to Dangerous Chemicals
Some factories emit harmful chemicals, which could cause severe illness or death of people living around the area. If you have lost a relative through what you believe is a result of harmful chemicals, you can file a wrongful death claim. The court will determine the breach of duty by the company owners and hold them responsible for the death of your loved one. Also, if you can prove the injuries and death of your relative was directly related to the harmful chemicals, you could get compensation for wrongful death.
- Pedestrian Accidents
According to the California Department of Public Health, pedestrian accidents and deaths are on the rise. Pedestrian accidents occur when a person walking on the road is hit by a car, bus, motorcycle, or even a bicycle. Since there is no barrier between the person and the ground, pedestrian accidents can cause severe injuries or even death. However, you must prove that the drivers or cyclists acted in negligence, thus causing the accident. All drivers have a duty to ensure that other road users are safe, and pedestrian accidents result from a breach of this duty. If your loved one is killed in a pedestrian accident, the deceased is not in a position to claim compensation, but you can file a wrongful death claim.
Determining Liability in a Wrongful Death Claim
It must be determined who was at fault for the situation that caused the death of your loved one to get compensation in a wrongful death claim. Although the compensation benefits for wrongful death are quite different from other negligence claims, you must prove that another person is responsible for the death. The elements of negligence include:
- Duty of Care
To determine that a respondent is liable for negligence and death that comes with it, they must have owed the victim a duty of care. The burden of care is the responsibility to keep the other person safe and ensure no harm befalls them. The exact duty of care owed to the victim will depend on the circumstances under which death occurred. After presenting the evidence, the jury will determine whether the respondent owed your loved one a duty of care.
- Breach of Duty
If it is determined that the duty of care existed, you must prove that the respondent breached that duty. Depending on the circumstances under which death occurred, breach of duty could be:
- A driver failing to pay attention to the road
- An employer failing to provide safe working conditions for their employees
- A doctor who prescribes the wrong medication
- Product manufacturers omitting essential details about a product to the consumer
Proving a breach of duty in a wrongful death claim can be quite complicated. Therefore, it is vital to navigating the suit with guidance from a personal injury attorney.
Finally, you must show that the respondent’s breach of duty caused harm and wrongful death. Before compensation for your claim, the respondent’s actions must be the main contributing factor to the injuries and death of your loved one. As long as the death occurred as a result of negligence, you will have a chance to be successful in a wrongful death claim.
Compensation Benefits in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim aims at getting compensation for the value and support the deceased would have provided to their family. A successful wrongful death claim can yield both economic and non-economic benefits to the family of the deceased. The amounts and period of compensation will depend on the age and life expectancy of the deceased. Economic damages will cover measurable financial losses streaming directly from death, and they include:
- Medical Expenses Incurred Before death
Sometimes when an accident occurs, death will not happen right away. The victim may be rushed to the hospital where the doctors will attempt to rehabilitate them. Some people may even spend a long time in the hospital before they die from the injuries suffered in the accident. If your loved one left medical bills before their death, you could claim compensation for those costs in a wrongful death claim. When perusing these compensation benefits, the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney is crucial.
- Financial Support that the Deceased would have Provided
When your loved one succumbs to injuries resulting from another person’s negligence, the family will lose financial support the victim provided when they were alive. This is because the bearing capacity will ultimately be lost. Compensation for the lost earning capacity and lost financial assistance will depend on the occupation of the deceased and their role in the family. Also, their life expectancy and future career goals will be considered in the calculation of the damages. Compensation will be made to support the minor children and dependents of the deceased until they complete school.
- Gifts and Inheritance that the Family Would Have Received from the Deceased
These benefits are received by the dependents and heirs of the deceased. This will cover all needs that would have catered for by the deceased. When the deceased loved one is no more, they cannot continue working and bearing income. A successful wrongful death claim can yield compensation for gifts and inheritance you would receive from the deceased if they had survived. However, it is essential to understand that payment for future economic losses will be converted to present-day value. It is vital to have competent legal representation to accrue maximum financial benefits in a wrongful death claim.
- Burial and Funeral Expenses
Funeral and burial expenses could take a toll on a family’s financial life. This will be the case, especially when the deceased was a bread wiener or a significant contributor to the finances. If your loved one is killed in a negligent accident, you can claim compensation for the funeral and burial or cremation expenses you incurred after the death. A successful personal injury claim can help you receive maximum benefit for all the costs you incurred for the funeral of your loved one.
- Value of Household Duties the Deceased would have Provided
When a loved one is deceased, especially the mother of the family, you may need to hire domestic help to take care of children or household chores. In a wrongful death claim, you can recover benefits for the value of household services that the deceased would have provided to the family if they survived.
On the other hand, you can get non-economic benefits for the wrongful death of your loved one, including:
- Compensation for Lost Moral Support
It is very devastating when your loved one dies from an accident caused by another person’s negligence. You are likely to develop emotional pain as a result of the loss of your loved one. Even though it is not clear how pain and suffering are calculated, you can get compensation benefits.
- Love and Companionship
After it is determined that your loved one died as a result of negligence, you can get compensation for the lost love and companionship.
- Loss of Sexual Relations
When your spouse dies as a result of negligence from another person, you can recover compensation for the lost intimacy and sexual relations. In California, you need to prove the following four elements before getting remuneration for lost consortium:
- Your partner or spouse’s death resulted from another person’s wrongful act or negligence
- You were legally married to the deceased at the time of their death
- You lost your partner’s consortium when they died
- The loss was a direct result of the respondent’s wrongful act
However, there is no fixed method of determining the amount you will receive as compensation. The court will award any amount depending on the evidence you present and common sense.
Frequently Asked Questions on Wrongful Death in California
The following are some of the most commonly asked questions about wrongful death lawsuits Under California Civil Code 377.60.
What is the Difference between Wrongful Death Claim and Survival Action?
In California, a wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased against the person whose negligence caused the death. A successful wrongful death claim will yield compensation for losses incurred by the family as a result of death. This will include payment for funeral expenses as well as that of pain and suffering. A survival action, on the other hand, is an additional claim filed by the heirs of the deceased. The survival action aims at recovering compensation that the deceased would have recovered if they had survived the injuries.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Personal Injury Claims?
In California, you cannot wait too long to file a compensation claim for the wrongful death of your loved one. A wrongful death must be filed within two years since the death occurred. However, if the wrongful death occurred as a result of medical malpractice, you need to submit the claim no later than one year since the incident took place. If your loved one is killed by the negligent or reckless behavior of someone else, it is crucial to reach out to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Who will Compensate the Victim’s Family in a Wrongful Death Suit?
If your loved one dies from negligence, you can file a claim against several individuals, including:
- Negligent drivers who cause fatal accidents
- Employers who failed to provide a safe working condition for employees
- Medical personnel who engage in a medical malpractice
- Manufacturers and distributors of defective products
However, the insurance company of the negligent party will be liable to pay for the damages. If the person responsible for death lacks enough insurance, their personal property can be sought after to pay for the costs. When a death occurs from a negligent car accident, compensation will be done depending on the percentage of fault for the accident. When pursuing a wrongful death claim, it is crucial to be guided by a personal injury attorney.
Can Parents Bring a Wrongful Death Claim for their Deceased Children in California?
Death of your child from another person’s negligence can be devastating. This is the case, especially when you have to battle for compensation in a personal injury claim. If a minor child died out of the respondent’s negligence, a parent is entitled to get benefit in a wrongful death claim. However, if the child is an adult and is married, their spouse or children will be the ones to get compensation benefits.
How Long does it take to get Compensation from a Wrongful Death Claim?
With the guidance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, a wrongful death claim can be resolved within a few months. However, this time will be influenced by how fast the liability for death is determined. Also, the amount of insurance cover of the respondent will affect the duration of the claim.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If your loved one died in an accident that was not their fault, you are entitled to wrongful death benefits. Getting the help of a competent personal injury attorney is one of the wisest decisions when pursuing a personal injury claim for wrongful death. A successful lawsuit will see you get compensation for medical bills incurred when trying to treat the deceased, lost financial support, and funeral expenses. Also, you can recover damages for pain and suffering and the loss of companionship, which was provided by the deceased. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we provide expert advice and guidance through your case to ensure that you receive maximum benefits in your claim. Call us today at 619-478-4059, and we will help you claim your compensatory benefits.