Grief and loss can feel completely overwhelming. Those feelings intensify when you suspect that someone else’s negligence led to a loved one’s death. Although nothing can replace the person you lost, it is possible to hold those who were responsible for the tragedy accountable for their actions.

The untimely death of a loved one can leave significant emotional wounds, especially when it is the result of gross negligence or reckless actions. With the help of a skilled and experienced Fresno personal injury attorney, you can seek fair compensation for your loss.

You may be struggling to pay medical expenses related to your loved one’s health care from their fatal injury or experiencing financial hardship from lost wages and pain and suffering. The Fresno wrongful death team at OnderLaw recognizes there is a unique human story behind your situation.

Our team has the resources, experience, and compassion to fight for your rights and the maximum possible compensation for your suffering. Our team in Fresno, California, has decades of experience and a track record of securing positive outcomes for our clients in situations like yours.

Let us help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free and confidential legal consultation. We’ll discuss your possible legal options and the details of your case to help you make your best decision.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit can be brought when someone dies due to the fault of a company or another person. The lawsuit is brought to seek compensation for lost companionship, funeral expenses, medical expenses, and lost wages from the deceased. In California, a wrongful-death lawsuit may occur after:

Medical malpractice: For example, if a physician does not diagnose a condition correctly or is careless in providing care, and a person dies, then a wrongful death claim against the doctor may be possible.

Incidents caused by negligence: If someone dies as the result of a car accident where the defendant was negligent in their operation of the vehicle, a wrongful death claim may be brought. Negligent incidents can occur when a person does not take “reasonable care” to avoid injuring another.

Intentional acts: The civil court holds a person accountable for the intentional act of killing another person in a wrongful death suit. One of the most infamous wrongful death civil suits was brought against O.J. Simpson. The state charged Simpson with the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The prosecution didn’t prove the criminal case, and he was set free. The Brown and Goldman families then filed in civil court and were awarded $33.5 million in compensatory damages.

It is important to note that a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit and is not required to meet the same standard as a criminal charge. In a criminal case, guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a high standard for the prosecution to reach in order to find someone guilty of a crime.

However, in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, liability must be established “by a preponderance of the evidence.” This means the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s actions were more likely than not responsible for a death.

Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Fresno, California, as in most states, a survivor of the victim or a representative of the estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the survivors. In California, this can include:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • Surviving children and or grandchildren of a deceased child of the victim

If there are no surviving descendants of the victim, then a person who would inherit property by intestate succession may bring a lawsuit. This is dependent on who is living at the time of the person’s death. In California, if a person shows they were financially dependent on the victim, they may also be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. These people might include:

  • Stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Legal guardian

Any individual or entity whose actions caused the death of a loved one may be held responsible. For example, an individual is accountable for actions that are directly responsible for a wrongful death, such as a physician, car driver, or individual who was responsible for a violent act against the victim where the injuries caused death.

Entities are responsible for wrongful death when an action or defect in a product is the proximate cause. For example, a manufacturer is responsible if there is a defect in the production of a car tire that leads to an accident and death.

What Kind of Compensation Might the Family Receive?

How much a family is compensated in a wrongful death lawsuit depends on many factors. In some cases, our legal team may reach a fair negotiated settlement with the defendant or their insurance company.

If the case goes to trial, then our legal team is responsible for proving the defendant was negligent. We must also demonstrate that the amount of compensation being requested is fair and adequate. The court may consider the following factors when determining an appropriate amount of compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit in Fresno, California:

  • Medical expenses for the person who died
  • Expected loss of medical and retirement benefits
  • Mental anguish and loss of companionship
  • Pain and suffering
  • Expected future earnings and income loss from the person who died
  • Expected loss of service, care, and protection from the person who died to the survivors or beneficiaries
  • Compensation for any property damage associated with the death
  • Reasonable funeral expenses

The state of California does not have a universal cap on damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, there is a statutory limit on medical malpractice lawsuits that applies in a wrongful death suit. California law places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. This is compensation for damages that do not have a direct economic cost, such as mental anguish and pain and suffering.

Proving Negligence. The Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death in California

To hold a defendant liable for damages in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate it was the defendant’s negligent or reckless act that caused the person to die. In California, the law follows the doctrine of “comparative negligence.” This means the plaintiff does not need to prove the defendant was 100% responsible for the death. Instead, they can sue for the percentage of damages that are attributable to the defendant.

In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove the defendant had a duty of care or an obligation to avoid injuring another person. They must also show that the defendant was negligent in this duty and that their negligence caused the injuries. Additionally, the court must believe that the defendant should have foreseen the dangers of their actions.

In the state of California, a wrongful death lawsuit must be brought within two years of the incident, or the court cannot hear the case. This is called the statute of limitations. However, in the case of a wrongful death claim against a government agency, you have six months from the date of the injury to file the claim. For example, if your loved one was hit by a government vehicle and died from their injuries or you believe there was medical malpractice in a VA Hospital, you have six months to file the claim.

Fatal Accident Statistics

In 2019, 3,316 fatal vehicle crashes resulted in 3,606 deaths in California. In the same year, there were 45 fatal crashes in Fresno, California, that resulted in 47 fatalities. Fourteen of these accidents involved drunk driving.

In the state, 50% of drivers killed in a fatal crash who were tested, tested positive for legal or illegal drugs. From 2018 to 2019, driving fatalities involving alcohol decreased 4.5%, teen driver fatalities decreased 12.7%, and motorcycle fatalities where the driver was not wearing a helmet decreased 18%.

Why Do I Need A Lawyer? Why Choose OnderLaw ?

Having a wrongful death attorney on your team will significantly affect the outcome of your compensation. Your lawyer will launch an investigation into the incident that caused the death of your loved one, building evidence that may help prove negligence. We have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to place a fair value on your case.

Unfortunately, insurance adjusters are skilled negotiators and trained to maximize the profit of the insurance company. It’s important to avoid speaking with an insurance adjuster unless you are with your attorney. Your lawyer will handle communication and negotiation on your behalf, which will protect you from inadvertently saying something that could jeopardize your case.

When you are grieving over a tragic and senseless loss, you should not have to engage in a complicated process to achieve justice for your loved one. The Fresno personal injury lawyers at OnderLaw have the experience and skill to protect your rights and help you fight for fair compensation.

Don’t Wait. Call OnderLaw Today

At OnderLaw , our clients are always our first priority. Our focus is on seeking justice for those who have been harmed by the negligent and reckless acts of others. We understand the financial and emotional burden you are already facing. That’s why we represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means you have no financial risk when you hire us. You’ll have no up-front or out-of-pocket costs until we win your case.

Call us to get started on your case today.