Losing a loved one or relative to an accident is never easy, but losing someone to a preventable accident or someone else’s malice can leave you feeling depressed and discouraged. Where can you go for the justice and support you deserve?

If you’ve lost a relative or family member to a preventable accident or malicious action, consider speaking to the California personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw about filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit for compensation. We can help you and your family move on after a tragic loss by holding the responsible party accountable for their actions. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation, and let us help you get the fair and just compensation you deserve.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is defined as any death caused by a preventable accident or malicious act. A civil court action designed to hold a party financially responsible for wrongful death differs from a criminal action. We do not attempt to convict anyone of a crime but to obtain monetary compensation for the losses resulting from the death.

Wrongful death actions are frequently used in conjunction with criminal court actions or in place of them. It’s not uncommon for an entity that has been acquitted of criminal charges to be sued for wrongful death as a means of holding them financially liable for their negligence or malicious actions. The burden of proof is lower for civil actions than for criminal ones. Criminal convictions require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil court only requires a “preponderance of the evidence to gain a favorable ruling.

Who Could Be Held Responsible?

Anyone who causes a death through negligence or malice can be held liable for their actions. The circumstances leading up to the death determine who will ultimately be held responsible.

Here are some possible scenarios where a wrongful death claim might be appropriate:

  • A person who may have killed someone was acquitted of murder or manslaughter charges.
  • A drunk driver who struck and killed a cyclist was acquitted for lack of evidence.
  • A surgeon made a critical mistake while performing a dangerous medical procedure.
  • A business that didn’t provide an adequately safe environment for visitors and the hazardous environment resulted in an accidental death.
  • A company manufactured and sold a product before performing safety tests and accidentally killed a consumer.
  • A lifeguard neglected their duty and allowed a swimmer to drown.
  • A rideshare driver drove recklessly and killed their passenger in a crash.

Who Is Eligible to Bring a Claim?

Most wrongful death claims are brought by the decedent’s family and loved ones. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, the following people are eligible to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Legal guardians
  • Dependent minors
  • Putative spouses (anyone who believed in good faith their marriage to the decedent was valid)
  • Stepchildren

Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim

You can receive compensation for nearly any loss attributed to the death of your family member, financial or otherwise. The exact amount you may receive is nearly impossible to determine without a full review of your case. In general, the more negligent or malicious the actions that caused the death, the more compensation you should demand from the responsible party.

The types of compensation also vary widely and depend on the specific losses or damages you’ve suffered resulting from the death. Some damages relate to the financial losses incurred, and some relate to the experience and mental strain of losing a loved one. Your attorney can help you determine which damages apply to your wrongful death claim.

Losses with a financial component are called economic damages, and losses without a financial component are called noneconomic damages.

The categories assigned to these two types of damages differ slightly from compensatory damages in personal injury claims. The California Civil Jury Instructions allow the following economic damages for wrongful death claims:

  • Loss of gifts and benefits
  • Loss of total financial support during the decedent’s expected lifetime
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Value of household services provided by the decedent

The following noneconomic damages are also allowed:

  • Loss of love, companionship, protection, comfort, care, assistance, affection, and moral support
  • Loss of sexual relations
  • Loss of training and guidance

The following damages cannot be considered in California wrongful death claims as they are considered expected losses following the loss of a loved one or family member:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Grief, sorrow, or mental anguish
  • The wealth or poverty of the claimant

In cases where the death was the result of a felony, California law allows some claimants to pursue exemplary damages as well as compensation for the loss. Exemplary damages are not intended to compensate you for the loss but to directly punish the negligent or malicious actor for causing the death. Talk to your attorney to see whether exemplary damages are appropriate for your claim.

Proving Negligence in California

To obtain compensation for a wrongful death claim, you and your attorney must prove either negligence or malice.

To prove negligence, you must show that the responsible party was supposed to act in a way that doesn’t harm others, neglected to do so, and their negligent action or inaction caused an accident that led to the death of your loved one. The definition for negligence is based on California law which states that everyone is responsible for their actions and any harm those actions cause others.

Proving malice requires demonstrating that the at-fault party intended to harm the decedent, made non-consensual contact, such as with a weapon or their hand, and that the contact led to the death.

You should have a valid compensation claim if you and your attorney can gather enough evidence to prove malice or negligence.

The time limit for wrongful death lawsuits in California is the same as for personal injury claims: two years from the date of the death. If you wait until after this deadline has passed to file a claim or lawsuit, you’re unlikely to receive compensation for your losses through the courts.

California Fatal Accident Statistics

Here are some statistics regarding fatal accidents in California and nationwide:

  • California led the nation in 2019 in the number of fatal traffic accidents.
  • There were just over 3,600 deaths in fatal vehicle crashes in California in 2019.
  • Fifty percent of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in California in 2019 who were tested for legal or illegal drugs showed a positive result.
  • There were just over 1,000 pedestrian fatalities in California in 2020.
  • There were 144 bicycle accident fatalities statewide in 2020.

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

Trying to navigate a complex legal procedure like a wrongful death claim with no experience and no help from a qualified attorney would be an arduous task. Hiring a lawyer is necessary for several reasons.

Your attorney will handle the hard work of building your claim, so you and your family have the time you need to process and grieve the loss. We will do all we can to make the claims process more manageable for you, including gathering evidence, investigating the accident or action that caused the death, and speaking to witnesses so that we can present a claim backed by evidence and supported by the relevant facts.

An attorney is necessary to calculate all the losses attributed to the death and make sure you’re requesting the right amount in damages. Some damages are subjective and difficult to estimate, such as loss of love and companionship. Your attorney can review prior case law to make sure we’re demanding the maximum possible payout.

Trying to answer questions from an insurance adjuster while grieving the loss of a loved one can be torturous. Your attorney will act as the first point of contact for any business related to your claim. You can let us take the calls and answer emails from the insurance companies to make sure they don’t take advantage of you during this stressful time.

Why Hire OnderLaw to Represent Me?

If you’re looking for an experienced, compassionate, and dedicated group of legal professionals to handle your wrongful death claim with care and precision, look no further than OnderLaw .

We genuinely wish to help our clients through some of the most challenging ordeals they’re likely to experience. We understand what you’re going through because we’ve helped dozens of clients through the same process before, and we will provide the support you and your family need as well as excellent legal counsel.

We’ve seen enormous success, and we can use that experience to help you. We’ve obtained over $4 billion in settlements and awards for our clients. Head to our Testimonials page to hear from past satisfied clients about the level of service we provide.

Call OnderLaw Today

If a malicious attack or negligent action caused the death of a loved one, don’t wait any longer to contact OnderLaw . We’re standing by to give you a free, no-obligation consultation. We will review your case and discuss your options with you at no charge. Call today.