If your loved one died because another party was negligent, reckless, or malicious, your family may have grounds for legal action. While filing a wrongful death claim won’t bring back the deceased, it might at least yield the compensation needed to pick up the pieces in the wake of the loss.
In California, a successful wrongful death claim may compensate eligible beneficiaries for:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Lost income and benefits;
- Medical bills incurred while treating the deceased’s final injury or illness;
- Loss of household services;
- Loss of anticipated inheritances; and
- Loss of affection, attention, community, guidance, love, and moral support.
The potential value of your family’s case will depend on the extent of these damages. There are several other factors, however, that could also influence the potential recovery. Such factors include:
1. The Circumstances Surrounding the Wrongful Death
If the death was the result of ordinary negligence, your family will only be able to seek compensatory damages. If the liable party’s conduct constituted malice, fraud, or oppression and the deceased survived momentarily after the fatal accident, punitive damages may be collected through a survival action. Even if the deceased did not survive momentarily, punitive damages could still be available if the killing was intentional.
2. The Victim’s Age & Health Prior to Passing
Every life is precious. When it comes to quantifying damages, though, the courts have to consider the age and health of the victim before he or she passed. If the deceased was relatively young, chances are he or she had considerable potential, which may warrant a higher award of damages.
3. The Victim’s Anticipated Career Trajectory
How many years did the victim have left in the workforce before retiring? And how much was he or she expected to earn during that time?
Unless the deceased was already retired, the income and benefits that he or she would have provided your family could make up a significant portion of the potential settlement or verdict. To determine reasonable figures for these losses, your legal team may consult industry experts, economists, and other specialists.
4. The Victim’s Household Contributions
Did the deceased provide childcare, meal preparation, or housekeeping? Having to replace these kinds of services in the wake of the loss could prove costly. As such, their associated expenses may be recoverable.
5. Whether the Victim Died Immediately
If the victim died after a long hospital stay, your family may have accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars—or more—in medical bills. These might be recoverable.
6. The Strength of the Evidence You Present
If you don’t present strong evidence to support your claim, the opposing party will be unlikely to offer a fair settlement or anything at all. If, on the other hand, you have sufficient evidence of fault, causation, and damages, they may be more inclined to compensate your family for all reasonable damages to avoid the hassle of litigation.
7. The Liable Party’s Available Insurance Coverage
Most tort settlements aren’t actually covered by liable parties out of pocket. Instead, their insurance carriers are responsible for compensating the claimants. As such, the defendant’s insurance policy limits might limit your recovery. Should this be the case, your lawyer can investigate the at-fault party’s asset value and finances as well as other potential avenues for pursuing compensation.
Who Can Bring the Claim?
Like other states, California allows only certain parties to take legal action following a wrongful death. Generally speaking, those who may be able to file a claim include the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner, and children.
If the victim is not survived by any of these heirs, the wrongful death suit may be brought by anyone who is entitled to his or her property under the laws of intestate succession. Such individuals include parents and siblings, as well as stepchildren who depended on the deceased financially prior to his or her passing.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in California?
If you think your family has grounds for a wrongful death suit, it’s wise to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Should the liable party prove uncooperative, you will have a limited amount of time to file suit.
California’s standard statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is two years. That means most plaintiffs have 24 months from the date of death to file. Since there are several exceptions to this statute, though, you will want to confirm your actual filing deadline in a timely manner.
If a government agency is to blame for your loss, for example, you may have as little as six months to commence the proceedings by filing an administrative claim. If your loved one was murdered, on the other hand, there may not be a filing deadline.
How Can I Give My Wrongful Death Case the Best Chance of Success?
Since legal proceedings are inherently unpredictable, there’s no way to guarantee that any given case will yield a payout. With so much at stake, though, it’s essential that you build the strongest claim possible.
To increase your chances of securing a satisfactory settlement or verdict, make sure to:
- Consult a seasoned attorney as soon as possible;
- Direct all correspondence from the opposing party to your legal team;
- Deactivate your social media accounts until the case has been resolved;
- Track all damages diligently; and
- Decline to give a recorded statement to the insurance company or at-fault party.
Call (562) 206-1939 for a Free Consultation with a Long Beach Wrongful Death Attorney
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has been helping grieving families navigate the legal system for more than 30 years. If you think you have grounds for a wrongful death claim, he can help you compile evidence, track damages, and avoid critical mistakes, all while protecting your family’s best interests every step of the way. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Online Contact Form to set up a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Long Beach.
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