The loss of a loved one or family member is a terrible thing for anyone to experience, but if another party’s negligence or outright malice caused the loss and criminal courts don’t give you the closure you need, where can you go? What options do you have?

If you’ve lost a loved one or family member to negligence or malice, consider speaking to the Oxnard personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw about filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. We can guide you through the process and help you get the result you need to move on. Call us today for a free consultation, and let us help you get the compensation you deserve for wrongful death.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is when a person dies due to another party’s malice, malpractice, or negligence. Unlike criminal cases, wrongful death claims and lawsuits are handled in civil court. The burden of proof for wrongful death cases is different from criminal cases, as the goal is not to convict an individual or entity of a crime but to obtain financial compensation for the loss. Wrongful death claims are a commonly used legal tool for holding a malicious or negligent actor accountable for their actions if they’ve already been acquitted in criminal court.

Who Could Be Held Responsible?

Any entity or individual that causes the death of another person either accidentally or maliciously can be responsible for a wrongful death claim. Here are some examples of possible wrongful death scenarios:

  • A drunk driver who strikes a pedestrian but is acquitted of criminal charges.
  • A doctor who makes a mistake during a complicated procedure and accidentally kills their patient.
  • A business that doesn’t provide adequate safety protection for its employees and accidentally kills someone.
  • A product manufacturer doesn’t adequately test a new product before placing it on sale, and one or more people die after using it.
  • A rideshare driver who drives while impaired and strikes another vehicle, killing their passenger.
  • A pool lifeguard who is negligent in their duties and allows a person to drown.

Who Is Eligible to Bring a Claim?

Usually, the decedent’s family or loved ones file wrongful death claims. California law states that the following parties are eligible to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Step-children
  • Parents
  • Domestic partner
  • Issue of deceased children
  • Legal guardians
  • Putative spouses (anyone who believes in good faith that their marriage to the decedent was valid)
  • Dependent minors

Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim

You can be compensated for a variety of losses attributed to the wrongful death. These losses, called damages, vary depending on the circumstances of the death and the events leading up to it. Losses with a financial value are called economic damages. Losses relating to the experience and mental strain of losing a loved one are called noneconomic damages. In general, the more severe the loss to you or your family, the more compensation you should demand from the responsible party.

Compensation can be obtained either through filing a wrongful death claim with the responsible party’s insurance company or via a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party directly. The majority of claims are handled before a case goes to court, but a lawsuit is the only option in some cases.

The types of compensation you may obtain through a wrongful death claim or lawsuit differ from other types of personal injury claims in a few key ways. California Civil Jury Instructions #3921 state that the following economic damages may be considered in wrongful death claims:

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

The Civil Jury Instructions expressly prohibit considering the following noneconomic damages in wrongful death claims because they either have no bearing or are considered a normal consequence of losing a loved one:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Grief, sorrow, or mental anguish
  • The relative financial situation of the claimant

The following noneconomic damages are allowed:

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

Determining the dollar value for these losses is best done with the help of your attorney.

In cases where the death results from a felony, California law allows plaintiffs to pursue exemplary damages. These are designed to punish the malicious actions of the defendant rather than to compensate you for the loss. There is no limit on exemplary damages, but they require a higher burden of proof than other types of damages. Talk to your attorney to see if they’re suitable for your wrongful death claim.

Proving Negligence in California

To successfully obtain compensation for your losses, we must show either negligence or malice.

Proving negligence means providing evidence showing the responsible party violated California law by behaving in a way that harmed others. If we can gather enough evidence and documentation to show that they were supposed to behave in a certain way, didn’t do so, and their destructive actions led to the accident that caused the death, we should have a valid compensation claim.

Proving malice requires showing that the responsible party intended to harm the decedent, they made non-consensual contact, such as with a weapon or vehicle, and that contact caused the death. Again, the burden of proof is lower for a wrongful death claim than for a criminal case, so you don’t need to prove anything “beyond a reasonable doubt.” You must only prove your claim by a preponderance of the evidence.

California has a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits that begins on the day of the death. If we attempt to file suit after this date has passed, a judge may refuse to hear the case.

California Fatal Accident Statistics

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

  • California had just over 3,600 fatalities caused by car accidents in 2019.
  • Pedestrian fatalities on California roads for people ages 65 and older increased 1.9 percent between 2018 and 2019.
  • California posted 3,723 motor vehicle deaths in 2020.
  • There were 451 fatal occupational injuries in California in 2019.
  • Transportation incidents account for the majority of workplace fatalities nationwide.

Why Do I Need an Attorney for My Wrongful Death Claim?

There are many reasons why hiring an attorney to assist with a wrongful death claim is a good idea.

Your attorney can explain how the claims process works and be available to answer any questions you may have. We can use our experience to make the ordeal as painless and straightforward as possible for you and your family.

We can also explain how losses and damages work. Understanding the different categories of damages and how they apply to your claim is key to obtaining the full amount of compensation owed to you.

Dealing with insurance adjusters under good circumstances is challenging. Dealing with them while grieving the loss of a beloved family member can be downright unbearable. Your attorney will handle all communication and negotiation with the insurance company, so you don’t have to.

In some circumstances, filing a lawsuit may be the only option available. Attempting to do so without the help of an attorney will almost guarantee a judgment against you. Retaining good legal counsel may seem unnecessary, but if there are problems with your claim or you need to move forward with filing suit, you’ll be glad you did.

Why Hire OnderLaw to Represent Me?

Since 2002, we’ve been providing compassionate, comprehensive, and competent legal representation to clients all over the country. We handle claims of all shapes and sizes, from wrongful death claims to lawsuits worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and we know how to get the outcomes our clients need.

Our dedicated team of legal professionals will work tirelessly to get you and your family the compensation you deserve. Our staff has a wide variety of specialties and a wealth of experience, including a former State Senator. Our team’s diversity gives us a unique perspective and a distinct advantage over our competitors. Seeing each case or claim from different angles allows us to craft creative strategies for our clients that other firms can’t provide.

We genuinely wish to help you through this difficult time. We are just as concerned about giving you the support and assistance you need as we are about obtaining compensation for your loss. We’ve dealt with many wrongful death claims before, and we understand what you’re going through.

The first thing most clients want to know is how much our services cost. While we can’t provide a quote without first reviewing your case, we can tell you that we work on contingency, which means our clients have no upfront costs. We take payment for our services out of any compensation we obtain for you. If we’re not successful at getting you some form of settlement or award, we don’t get paid.

Call OnderLaw Today

If you’ve lost a loved one to malice or negligence, we’re waiting to take your call. Let the attorneys at OnderLaw work to get you the just and fair compensation you deserve after a tragic loss. Call and let us review your case in a free, no-obligation consultation. Let us help you get the closure you need. Call OnderLaw today.