Losing a loved one is never easy, but it can be especially devastating when negligence is to blame. After a wrongful death, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the deceased would still be here today if only the responsible party had exercised reasonable care.
While filing a wrongful death suit won’t bring the victim back, it could at least yield the funds that surviving family members need to rebuild their lives in the wake of the loss. If your relative died from injuries sustained on someone else’s property, here’s what you should know about pursuing a claim:
1. What Constitutes Wrongful Death in California?
In California, death is considered wrongful when it is the direct result of another party’s negligence or misconduct. If your loved one died from an accident or altercation on someone else’s property, for example, your family may have grounds for a premises liability wrongful death claim.
As long as the deceased wasn’t trespassing at the time and the incident wouldn’t have occurred had the owner or occupier maintained the premises, it is worth reaching out to a wrongful death lawyer to find out if you have grounds for a claim.
2. Who Might Be Liable for Fatal Injuries Sustained on Someone Else’s Property?
The first step to building a strong premises liability wrongful death claim is identifying all responsible parties. Depending on the circumstances, there are a number of parties that could be liable. Examples include:
- The Property Owner: If the owner failed to maintain the premises to a reasonable standard, and his or her oversights were ultimately what caused the fatal accident, he or she may be wholly responsible for the resulting damages.
- The Occupier: If your loved one died after slipping and falling at a store, the business owners may be to blame. Even if they don’t own the storefront out of which they operate, they’re responsible for implementing measures to keep licensees and invitees safe while on the premises. The same applies to residential tenants. While landlords must maintain common areas, the renters are ultimately responsible for ensuring their individual living quarters are safe.
- The Maintenance Contractor: Nowadays, many property owners rely on third-party contractors like janitorial companies to maintain their buildings. If one of these contractors fails to perform their duties and someone gets hurt as a result, they may be liable for the damages.
3. How Can I Prove Liability for My Loved One’s Death?
Proving liability in your premises liability wrongful death claim will ultimately come down to the facts of the case. If the victim was attacked in a poorly lit parking lot, for example, you might need to gather surveillance footage, maintenance records, and police reports. If, on the other hand, he or she slipped while walking around the perimeter of a public pool, you may need deposition from eyewitnesses, photographs of the scene, and the facility’s standard operating procedures.
Thankfully, a wrongful death attorney can determine precisely what you will need—and then apply legal pressure to obtain it—so you can put together the strongest claim possible.
4. Can Anyone Affected by the Death Bring the Suit?
A sudden loss might impact dozens of people, but in California, only certain parties have the right to take legal action following a wrongful death. Such parties include the deceased’s:
- Spouse or domestic partner;
- Children, grandchildren, or stepchildren;
- Parents; or
- Rightful heirs according to the laws of intestate succession.
5. What Kinds of Damages Are Available in Premises Liability Wrongful Death Claims?
When a wrongful death claim yields a payout, the damages are typically divided by type and then distributed accordingly. Damages that are usually awarded to the deceased’s estate, for example, might include:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical bills incurred while treating the final injury or illness; and
- Lost income and benefits that the deceased would have likely earned over the course of his or her career.
Damages that are usually awarded to surviving family members, on the other hand, might include:
- Loss of affection, attention, community, guidance, love, and moral support;
- Loss of household services; and
- Loss of financial support.
6. How Long Does a Family Have to Bring a Suit Following a Wrongful Death?
Although most tort claims are resolved without filing a lawsuit, there’s no guarantee that the property owner—or his or her insurer—will be cooperative. If the opposing party disputes liability, challenges the extent of the damages, or simply refuses to offer a fair payout, filing a formal lawsuit may be the only way to proceed.
Should this be the case, it’s important to act fact because there are strict filing deadlines. In California, the standard statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years. If you try to take your case to court after more than two years have passed, it will likely be dismissed. And if an exception applies to your claim, you may have even less time to file suit.
7. Should My Family Seek Legal Counsel Before Building Our Claim?
While you have every right to represent yourself in civil court, it is unadvisable, especially when your family’s financial security is at stake. A seasoned wrongful death attorney can:
- Identify all responsible parties;
- Gather evidence of liability and causation;
- Track recoverable damages;
- Handle all correspondence with the opposing party;
- Negotiate for a fair settlement; and
- Prepare your case for litigation if necessary.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Premises Liability Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If your loved one died from injuries sustained on someone else’s property, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Our law firm offers the resources of a large practice but provides the care and attention you’d expect from a small, local firm. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Online Contact Form to set up a free consultation with a premises liability lawyer in Long Beach.
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