There is nothing in the world so grievous as the loss of a loved one. Kind words can help with the pain, but when that loss is due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions, effective and compassionate legal help in pursuing compensation can go a long way toward getting you through the emotional and financial challenges in front of you.

In a time of deep personal loss and extreme change in your life, you don’t need to pursue justice and compensation for the death of your loved one alone. Since 2002, we at OnderLaw have built our success on the close, honest, caring relationships we cultivate with all of our clients. We will treat you with the same loyalty and respect you’ll find in the closest of families, especially in your time of profound loss.

If you’ve lost someone close to you through the negligence or willfulness of someone else, contact OnderLaw ’s Chula Vista personal injury lawyers today for a free, no-pressure consultation. We’ll get to know you, ask questions, listen and learn about your situation, and advise you on the best options for your wrongful death claim.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is one that results from the negligent or intentional act of another party. A wrongful death claim is a civil claim, separate from any criminal charges arising from the death that can be brought by specific family members or dependents.

Depending on the particular situation, almost any act resulting in a death can be deemed negligent or intentional. These are some of the circumstances typical of wrongful death lawsuits:

  • Vehicular accidents (car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian, others)
  • Medical malpractice (misdiagnosis, errors during surgery, drug prescription errors, others)
  • Defective or tainted drugs
  • Aircraft accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Drownings
  • Fire deaths
  • Exposure to carcinogens or other toxic substances
  • Animal attacks, dog bites
  • Assaults and physical attacks by another person
  • Defective products

Who Could Be Held Responsible

Any person or entity whose actions caused the death of the deceased may be held responsible. The situations under which another party could be legally liable for someone’s death are too wide-ranging and varied to list them all, but these are some examples of potentially responsible parties:

  • A surgeon who operates on a patient while under the influence of alcohol
  • The manufacturer of a defective car part that causes a driver to lose control of the vehicle
  • The truck driver and their hiring company, when excessive speed causes a fatal car crash
  • The company that owns the warehouse where a worker’s prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals results in death
  • An electrician whose poor repair job is responsible for a fatal house fire
  • The inebriated bar patron and the bartender who over-served them before the patron runs off the road on the way home, colliding with a pedestrian
  • A motorist who has fatally assaulted another driver during a road rage incident

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. While some cases clearly involve only one offender, others can involve any number of potentially responsible parties, including employers, property owners and managers, and workplace supervisors, among many others.

Who Is Eligible to Bring a Claim?

California civil law defines who is allowed to bring a wrongful death claim.

  • A surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • the deceased’s parents or legal guardians
  • The deceased’s children (or, if there are no surviving children, the children’s offspring)
  • Other individuals in line to inherit the deceased’s property
  • Other dependents who can demonstrate their relationship to the deceased

In some other situations, other parties may be eligible. A lawyer can help you with further eligibility questions, or you can refer directly to the statute.

Possible Compensation in Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims are fundamentally different from other types of personal injury cases. Since the victim cannot pursue the claim, the plaintiffs are the remaining family members. Likewise, the range of potential compensation for wrongful deaths is unique. You may be eligible for any of the following types of damages in a wrongful death claim:

  • Funeral, cremation, burial, and other associated expenses
  • The value of the future income, financial support, gifts, and household services the deceased would have provided
  • The cost of the deceased’s medical care necessitated by the negligence, after the accident, and before death
  • The surviving spouse’s loss of the love, companionship, guidance, care, or emotional and physical intimacy provided by the deceased
  • Psychological treatment for the surviving family
  • Punitive damages, called exemplary damages in California law, cannot be awarded in wrongful death cases unless the at-fault party was convicted of a felony homicide.

Sometimes medical malpractice is part of a wrongful death claim. California currently has a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damage awards in cases of medical malpractice. Noneconomic damages are those that do not have a clear-cut dollar value, such as loss of companionship or loss of enjoyment of life.

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

To establish liability in a wrongful death case, you must be able to prove negligence, and in California, proving negligence requires that you establish some basic facts about your case. California law holds everyone responsible for taking reasonable, ordinary care not to injure someone else. You need to prove that the defendant was not reasonably careful in their actions (or lack of preventative action) and that these actions created the accident or situation in question.

Next, you have to prove that the accident was the cause of your loved one’s fatal injuries. Finally, you will need to demonstrate that the damages you’ve suffered resulted from your loved one’s death. You will also need to provide documentation detailing the monetary value of these damages. If you can prove all of these things, your claim will likely have a successful outcome.

Even if the defendant is not 100 percent responsible for the accident, California courts can still award you some of the damages you’re seeking. As a comparative liability state, California enables its civil courts to assign, by percentage, the amount of fault a given party bears for the accident. If the jury decides that the defendant is 75 percent responsible, then the court would award you 75 percent of the total damages you are claiming.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years from the date of the death in question. If you have not filed your case in the state’s civil courts by that time, you will likely forfeit the possibility of collecting any damages through the court system. By hiring legal help as soon as possible, you allow your lawyer time to gather evidence, formulate a strategy, negotiate a favorable settlement, or, if necessary, prepare and file a civil court case.

While hiring an attorney may feel like just another decision that must be made in the wake of a death, doing so as quickly as possible will begin paying emotional and practical dividends immediately.

Chula Vista Fatal Accident Statistics

In San Diego County in 2019, accidents were the fifth-leading cause of death, as they were throughout California.

In Chula Vista in 2018, there were 19 traffic fatalities. In 2019, there were only 7.

There were 15,116 accidental deaths in California in 2019.

In an eight-year study published in 2016, Johns Hopkins concluded that the number of national medical error-related deaths were greater than the CDC’s third leading cause of death. More than 250,000 people die from medical error-related issues annually. The CDC’s third leading cause of death is respiratory disease, which takes a death toll of 150,000 every year.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

In the wake of the death of a loved one, everyone grieves in their own way, but many symptoms are the same. Depression, disorientation, lethargy, and difficulty concentrating are all normal grief responses, and the anxieties of pursuing a wrongful death claim are more than you should have to bear. A compassionate, experienced personal injury lawyer will take all those responsibilities off of your plate, allowing you to use your time and energies for emotionally healing yourself and your family.

Why Choose OnderLaw ?

The attorneys and staff at OnderLaw understand the kind of grief you’re facing, but we also appreciate the personal nature of your individual loss. We treat every client like family, and we realize that everyone who has endured the death of someone close to them will take their own time to grieve in their own way. As your legal representation, we will take care of the details and tasks that are part of a wrongful death suit so that you don’t have to.

You may be feeling the financial pinch of the loss of your loved one, as well, and hiring a lawyer may seem like an extravagance you cannot afford. We believe everyone deserves quality legal representation, and for that reason, we work on a contingency basis. You pay us nothing upfront. When we gain compensation for you, we will take an agreed-upon percentage. If we get you no money, we don’t get paid.

If you’re in Chula Vista and are considering a wrongful death claim, contact us today. Again, the initial consultation is free at OnderLaw . Let us help you as you start out on the path for justice for you and your loved ones.