Few things can shake a person to their core like the sudden and tragic loss of a cherished family member. This pain cuts even more deeply when the loss is the result of a reckless or negligent accident. When “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, it may be time to call an experienced Modesto personal injury attorney from OnderLaw.

Wrongful death lawsuits aren’t about the money. They are about justice. At OnderLaw, we know that no amount of money can fill the hole left in your heart after the sudden loss of a loved one. What we can do is provide you with a path toward justice and compensation. Compensation that will help you begin the recovery process for you and your family.

For a free and confidential legal consultation to talk about your options, contact us today.

What Is Wrongful Death?

California defines wrongful death as the death of a person caused by a wrongful or neglectful act. In reality, a wrongful death lawsuit functions similarly to a personal injury lawsuit. When someone is hurt due to reckless or negligent actions of another person, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover their losses. A wrongful death works on the same principle. However, instead of the victim filing the lawsuit, a beneficiary files the suit on the deceased victim’s behalf.

Incidents that may result in a wrongful death lawsuit can include:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective consumer product accidents
  • Defective pharmaceuticals
  • Defective medical devices

Who Could Be Held Responsible and Who is Eligible to Bring a Claim?

In most cases, the entity responsible for causing the death is the entity that can be held legally responsible for the consequences of its actions. Notice the use of the word “entity.” The one responsible doesn’t always have to be an individual or a single person. An individual can be responsible, but so can a company, employer, or manufacturer. At times, more than one party may be responsible for a death. Consulting with an attorney is an important first step in determining liability for a wrongful death claim. An attorney can thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and establish who the liable party or parties may be who are responsible for compensating the victim’s family.

In the same vein, an experienced wrongful death attorney will also be able to help family members understand who may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim to court. California law has set a hierarchy that establishes who is allowed to file a claim on behalf of the deceased. First in line is the victim’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, and children. If the victim has no surviving spouse or children, a surviving grandchild may be able to file a claim.

If the victim does not have a surviving spouse or children, anyone who may be entitled to the victim’s property through intestate succession may be able to file a lawsuit. These people can be the deceased person’s parents, siblings, or legal guardians. These family members must typically show that they were somehow financially dependent on the victim.

California also allows a “putative spouse” to file a wrongful death claim. A putative spouse is a partner that enters a marriage in good faith, believing that the marriage is valid. For example, a person marries believing that their spouse is divorced. However, they didn’t know the divorce was never final. In this case, they could be considered a putative spouse by the courts.

Compensation for Wrongful Death

Compensation in a wrongful death claim can encompass both measurable and subjective losses. Economic damages are supposed to cover funeral costs, burial expenses, and the loss of income that the deceased family member had generated. This form of compensation is meant to cover the measurable losses incurred by the victim’s family.

Noneconomic damages are a form of compensation that covers the quality of life changes and the emotional suffering of a family. These damages are more subjective in nature because they deal with the pain and suffering and psychological trauma the death has caused a family.

In total, economic damages and noneconomic damages may compensate family members for the following:

  • Medical costs associated with the accident before death
  • Funeral costs
  • Burial costs
  • Loss of future financial support or earnings
  • Loss of benefits
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering

California is one of only a handful of states that does not place a cap, or limit, on the amount of compensation that a family can recover from a wrongful death suit. The court will consider the evidence provided and the circumstances of the accident before making a judgment on compensation. The only exception is medical malpractice cases. California places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, even those involving wrongful death.

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

In California, everyone is obligated to make sure their actions don’t harm others. If you can prove, with evidence, that someone else caused the accident through their careless behavior and that the accident is what led to your loved one’s death, you likely have a compensable claim.

An experienced California wrongful death attorney can review these concepts with you in more detail from a legal standpoint. However, one of the most important factors in a wrongful death suit is proving recklessness or negligence.

Usually, an in-depth investigation is needed to get to the heart of what caused the accident and why it happened. Experienced attorneys from OnderLaw will have the resources needed to mount this type of investigation and gather the evidence necessary to build a compelling case. This evidence can include cell phone records, safety reports, inspection records, photographs, video surveillance, medical records, and other vital pieces of documentation. It is crucial to talk to an attorney as soon as possible before this evidence can be lost or destroyed.

In addition, it is also crucial to talk to an attorney immediately because family members only have a limited amount of time to file a claim. In California, families only have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death suit. If a case is filed after that two-year statute of limitations has expired, the courts can dismiss the case without hearing it. In most cases, this leaves families with few or no other options for recovering compensation.

State and National Fatal Accident Statistics

Wrongful death claims can stem from any number of serious accidents. Fatal car accidents where negligence was at play can lead to wrongful death lawsuits. According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2017, there were 3,582 fatal crashes. Those crashes killed 3,904 individuals.

Some workplace accidents can also trigger wrongful death claims. The United States Department of Labor keeps tabs on workplace fatalities by state. Several have already been recorded in California. One of these accidents included the death of a worker who was electrocuted while performing electrical testing.

Although slip and fall accidents can seem minor, they actually contribute to a large proportion of traumatic brain injuries and hospitalizations. The National Floor Safety Institute indicates that over 8 million emergency room visits are due to falls. Fall fatalities also account for about five percent of job-related fatalities for women and eleven percent for men.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer? Why Choose OnderLaw?

While you are rightly focused on the loss of a beloved family member, another party may be focused on taking advantage of your grief. After a deadly accident, you may have legal rights. To ensure that those rights are being protected and you get the compensation you deserve, you need an experienced Modesto wrongful death attorney on your side. An attorney can take the reins, handling the complicated details that come with a wrongful death claim while you take time to recover and heal from this traumatic event.

At OnderLaw, we understand the heavy toll this type of tragedy can take on a family. That is why we conduct business with honesty, sensitivity, and compassion. You aren’t a client or a business transaction to us. You are a person and someone we want to establish a relationship with. We believe that the way we treat you says a lot about who we are as a law firm, and we hold ourselves to a high standard.

We also believe that results speak for themselves. We have a record that stretches back two decades of winning cases and recovering valuable compensation for the people we represent.

Contact OnderLaw Today

At OnderLaw, we understand that you are probably still in shock and dealing with complex emotions related to the tragic accident. We can be the shoulder you lean on during this trying time, offering our emotional support and vital legal advice.

When you are ready to talk about justice for your cherished family member, talk to us. Call to talk to a lawyer for free today.