An accident that is over in an instant can change your family’s life forever. If you’ve lost someone you love due to another’s negligence, nothing can replace them, but you still deserve restitution. You should contact the Sacramento personal injury attorneys at OnderLaw for a free consultation to see if a wrongful death lawsuit is right for you.

We have experience assisting Sacramento residents in getting the help they need after an accident or injury, and we can use that experience to help you heal and move on after a tragic loss. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

What is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death claim or lawsuit is a way for people who have lost a family member or close companion due to another party’s negligence or malice to seek financial compensation for the loss of their loved one. Essentially, anyone who suffered a financial loss due to the decedent’s death might be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful death claims can be used as a tool to penalize not only negligent parties but malicious actors as well. The standard of proof in wrongful death claims is lower than in criminal cases, so it’s not uncommon for someone acquitted of murder or manslaughter in criminal court to be found liable in a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.

Who Can Be Found Liable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

This depends on the circumstances that caused the death, but in general, almost anyone who caused the death of another person, either through negligence or maliciously, can be held liable, with some exceptions.

Individuals, companies, agencies, and employers can all be sued for wrongful death in California. Some examples include:

  • A drunk driver for causing an accident that killed a loved one
  • A company that designs and sells a faulty product that causes the death of a family member
  • A state agency for not providing adequate safety measures, such as inadequate signage to warn of a road hazard
  • A doctor whose negligent action caused the death of a loved one
  • A criminal whose malicious acts caused the death of a family member
  • The manufacturer of a faulty car or truck part whose failure ended in the death of a loved one
  • A bar or liquor store owner who knowingly provides alcohol to an intoxicated minor, and the minor’s actions cause the death of a loved one
  • An employer who doesn’t provide safety training or adequate protection for their employees, and that lack of training or protection causes the death of a family member

These are only a few examples of possible wrongful death scenarios.

Who is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

The laws and statutes surrounding wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state, but in California, a wrongful death claim can be brought by the following parties:

  • Immediate family of the decedent, such as children, spouse, or domestic partner
  • Putative spouse or children of putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents
  • Any minor who resided in the decedent’s home for 180 days or more and was dependent on the decedent for at least half of their financial support

California law defines a “putative spouse” as anyone who had a good faith belief that their marriage to the decedent was valid and correct.

Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims

The types of compensation you can obtain following a wrongful death claim depend on the specific losses or damages you suffered and the circumstances that caused the death. These losses are similar to those used in personal injury lawsuits, with a few key differences.

Economic damages are any losses with a specific dollar amount attached. According to California Civil Jury Instruction no. 3921, Some economic damages sought during wrongful death claims and lawsuits include the following:

  • Loss of financial support. Anyone who suffers financial losses as a result of the death can seek compensation for income that the decedent would have provided to the family during the life expectancy they had before the accident or during the plaintiff’s life expectancy, whichever is shorter.
  • Loss of gifts or benefits. You can be compensated for any gifts or benefits you would have received from the decedent had they not died.
  • Funeral and burial expenses. If you’re forced to pay for burial or funeral expenses out-of-pocket, you can be compensated for this loss.
  • Loss of household services. Even if your family member provided no financial support, you can recover compensation for the services they would have provided at home.

Non-economic damages, or losses without a specific dollar amount, can also be claimed. Some examples include:

  • Loss of consortium. You can be compensated for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, and assistance provided by the decedent.
  • Loss of enjoyment. This can apply to sexual relations or the lost ability to enjoy activities you shared with the decedent.
  • Loss of training and guidance. If the decedent provided education or training in any way, you could be compensated for this loss.

The Civil Jury Instructions specifically prohibit consideration of the following in wrongful death claims:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • The poverty or wealth of the claimant

Proving Negligence and the Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Claims

Proving wrongful death in California requires proving negligence, or that the other party behaved in a way that disregarded the safety of others. California law states that everyone has a basic duty to look out for the safety of other people. If they do not, they can be held liable for any accidents or injuries that result. You must prove that the responsible party in your accident was supposed to behave a certain way, did not behave as they should, that their behavior ended in the death of a loved one or family member, and that death caused you economic or non-economic losses.

If you can prove these four key points, you should be able to recover compensation for your losses.

California has a strict statute of limitations for wrongful death claims of two years from the date of the decedent’s death. There are some exceptions to this rule, but very few.

Sacramento Fatal Accident Statistics

Here are some statistics on fatal accidents in Sacramento and elsewhere:

  • Fatal traffic collisions in Sacramento declined from 46 in 2017 to 31 in 2019.
  • There were 23 pedestrian-involved fatal traffic accidents in Sacramento in 2019.
  • 175 people died in car accidents in Sacramento County in 2018.
  • Nationwide, nearly one in five fatally injured workers was employed as a truck or delivery driver.
  • 5,333 workers died in fatal occupational injuries nationwide in 2019.

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

Aside from helping with the complexities of filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, hiring an attorney with experience in wrongful death claims can bring many advantages.

Losing a loved one to another’s negligence or malice is never easy. The emotional toll is extreme and coupled with the financial losses and the intricacies of filing a claim or lawsuit, it can quickly become overwhelming. We’ve dealt with all types of wrongful death claims, from car accidents to occupational injuries, and we are intimately familiar with the process. Our knowledge and experience can help make the ordeal smoother and easier for you and your family.

Estimating your losses or damages is not as straightforward as it may seem, especially when trying to determine the value of non-economic damages. We can fall back on previous case history and our knowledge of the process to help you reach a number that compensates you for all your losses, material or otherwise.

We will do the work and allow you and your family time to process the loss and grieve. We will build your claim, investigate the accident, interview witnesses or experts, and deal with insurance companies that seek to protect their bottom line. We will work tirelessly, so you don’t have to.

Why Choose OnderLaw for My Wrongful Death Claim?

At OnderLaw , we value bringing a personal touch to our client interactions. We will take the time to get to know you, listen carefully to your story, and provide a level of service that’s a cut above the rest. We believe that only through establishing a relationship built on candor and trust can we treat our clients the way they deserve to be treated.

Not only do we support our clients through difficult times, but we also support the communities that allow us to grow and prosper. We regularly provide donations of time and money to charitable organizations such as MADD, Toys for Tots, and Lupus Foundation of America.

But most importantly, we’re very successful at what we do. We have obtained over $3 billion in settlements and awards for our clients. We can’t guarantee a good result for every case we take on, but we will work tirelessly to get you the help you need.

Call Today for a Free Consultation

The attorneys of OnderLaw are standing by to take your call. Don’t let a loved one’s death determine your financial future. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation, and let us help you and your family find closure and move on. Call today.