Have you recently lost a loved one or family member in a preventable accident? Was this accident caused by another party’s negligence or malice? If so, the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw would like to speak with you about filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.

We have almost two decades of experience assisting residents of Bakersfield and elsewhere get compensation for a preventable death, and we can use that experience to help you. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation, and let us help you and your family move on after the death of a loved one.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is a type of personal injury case that is brought in civil court against another party that has caused the death of a person either intentionally or due to negligence. A wrongful death case can result from many different types of injury claims, including defective products, medical malpractice, or car accidents.

Wrongful death actions are used to compensate family and loved ones for a preventable death. They are a common tool that can be used to make sure that individuals or entities that have been acquitted of criminal charges still face some kind of penalty for their actions. The standard of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, and it’s not uncommon for families of wrongful death victims to file a civil suit against someone acquitted of a crime in criminal court.

Who Can Be Held Responsible for Wrongful Deaths?

Almost any person or entity that caused the death of another person either through malice or negligence can be held liable for the death. Who can be held liable in your case depends on the circumstances and the cause of death.

Here are some examples of wrongful death scenarios:

  • A doctor uses the incorrect instrument in a delicate surgery and accidentally kills a patient.
  • A drunk driver kills a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk.
  • A criminal maliciously attacks another person with a weapon, killing them.
  • A company produces a fatally defective product, and this product kills someone who uses it.
  • An employer doesn’t provide a safe working environment for an employee, and their negligence causes the employee’s death.
  • A bar or liquor store knowingly provides alcohol to an intoxicated minor, and they are killed while driving drunk, or kill another driver or pedestrian.
  • A state or government agency, such as a road works contractor, does not put up adequate signage warning of a hazard, and the hazard kills a person.
  • A car or truck manufacturer produces a faulty component, and the failure of this component kills a person.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims are usually brought by a representative of the decedent’s family on behalf of family members or loved ones. California has specific laws dealing with wrongful death claims that outline who can bring a claim or lawsuit.

In general, family members or anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent can bring a wrongful death claim. This may include:

  • Spouses and domestic partners
  • Children or grandchildren
  • Putative spouses
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Legal guardians
  • Siblings

The law defines “putative spouse” as “a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage that is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.”

Only one party may bring a wrongful death suit. Others who are eligible to pursue such a lawsuit must join the action of the first person to file.

Compensation for Wrongful Death

The amount and type of compensation wrongful death claimants can receive depends on the circumstances that caused the death and the losses suffered as a result. Some of these losses, referred to as damages, have a monetary value attached, and some do not.

California Civil Jury Instructions No. 3921 states that the following economic damages are allowed in wrongful death claims:

  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of gifts or benefits
  • Funeral or burial expenses
  • Value of household services

The following non-economic damages are also allowed:

  • Loss of companionship or support
  • Loss of sexual relations
  • Loss of training and guidance

Because certain conditions are caused by nearly every death of a loved one or family member, the instructions specifically prohibit consideration of the following when awarding non-economic damages:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental grief or anguish
  • The poverty or wealth of the claimant

Proving Negligence in California and the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits

In order to obtain compensation for a wrongful death claim in California, you must prove that the person or entity that caused the death did so either through negligence or intentional malice.

To prove negligence, you must show that the responsible party was required to behave a certain way, that they didn’t behave as they should, that their behavior ended in an accident, and that accident caused the death of a loved one or family member.

Proving malicious intent is slightly different. You must show that the responsible party intended to harm the decedent, that they made non-consensual contact with the decedent, such as striking them with a weapon, and that the contact resulted in the death.

If you’re able to prove the responsible party was either negligent or malicious, you should be able to obtain compensation through a wrongful death claim.

California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1 states that you have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a lawsuit unless that suit is against a government agency or office. In that case, you have six months from the decedent’s death to file an administrative claim with the agency or office.

Bakersfield and California Fatal Accident Statistics

Here are some informative statistics regarding fatal accidents in California and elsewhere:

  • There were 39 fatalities in road and traffic accidents in Bakersfield in 2019.
  • December is the most dangerous month for fatal accidents in Bakersfield
  • California leads the nation in the number of fatal traffic crashes in 2019.
  • 50% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2019 tested positive for legal or illegal drugs.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 motor vehicle crash fatalities in the United States involves speeding.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer for My Wrongful Death Claim?

You’re able to file a wrongful death claim without the help of an attorney, but there are several reasons why you wouldn’t want to.

First and foremost, trying to deal with an intricate legal procedure while processing the death of a loved one or family member can quickly become overwhelming. Wrongful death claims are complex and require the help of an experienced attorney to ensure that they are complete and free of errors that may get the claim delayed.

Estimating damages requires experience and knowledge of how claims work. Determining the total monetary value of present or future financial losses may seem like a task you can accomplish without the help of an attorney, but bear in mind, you can be compensated for more than just financial losses. Determining the value of non-economic damages such as loss of companionship is far more involved and requires knowledge of previous case law.

There’s also the time commitment to consider. Losing a loved one takes an extreme mental toll on surviving family members and leaves little time for the effort it takes to build a comprehensive case. Your attorney can lift the burden off your shoulders and leave you the time you need to process and grieve.

Why Hire OnderLaw to Represent Me?

OnderLaw has a dedicated, tenacious, and experienced staff of legal professionals waiting to assist with your case. We’ve seen every type of injury and claim imaginable, from whiplash car accident claims to wrongful death lawsuits against a government agency. We have the experience and knowledge to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

We understand how difficult a wrongful death claim or lawsuit can be because we’ve been here before. We’ve helped thousands of clients get help when they needed it most, and we can do the same for you and your family.

We also understand that not everyone can afford an attorney, which is why we work on a contingency fee arrangement. It works like this: you bring us your case, we review it during the initial consultation and determine whether it has merit. If we think it does, we sign on to represent you and start building your case. We gather evidence and documentation and negotiate with insurance companies, or we file a lawsuit if necessary. If we’re successful in getting you either a settlement or verdict, we take a percentage of the amount you receive. If we don’t win your case, you pay nothing. We only take payment if we’re successful.

Our record speaks for itself. Since our founding in 2002, we’ve successfully obtained over $3 billion in settlements and awards for our clients. We’re good at what we do.

Call Today for a Free Consultation

If you’ve lost a loved one to another’s negligence or malice, don’t wait any longer. Call the attorneys at OnderLaw today and get the compensation you deserve after a wrongful death. We only take payment for our services if we win your case, and the first consultation is absolutely free, so you have nothing to lose. Call today.