Almost nothing is more traumatizing and catastrophic than the sudden loss of a cherished loved one. There is no way to describe the pain. Pain that can last a lifetime. However, when family members realize that their loss may have been the result of someone else’s reckless or negligent actions, the range of emotions they can experience intensifies. There can be anger, doubt, frustration, and fear, all crashing down on a person in wave after wave. No one could possibly understand the things that a family is feeling at that moment, but at OnderLaw, for the sake of our clients, we try.

The San Jose personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw put ourselves in your shoes. We understand that the sudden loss of a loved one can turn your world upside down, and we are sensitive to the fact that you may not be in an emotionally solid place right now. What our attorneys do is take the time to listen, treat you and your family with kindness and compassion, and then aggressively fight to hold the negligent party responsible for their actions.

We believe your family deserves justice and financial compensation for your loss. If you have questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit and just want to talk, we are here to listen. Call us today, and we’ll set you up with a free legal consultation.

What Is Wrongful Death?

In California, a wrongful death is legally defined as a death caused by the “wrongful act or neglect of another.” Sometimes it is helpful to think of a wrongful death claim in terms of a personal injury lawsuit. If a person were injured on the job by the negligence of their manager, they may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries and expenses. A wrongful death lawsuit is similar, but instead of the individual being able to sue, the responsibility falls onto their surviving family members instead.

Some of the most common types of incidents that can trigger a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle crashes
  • Premises liability accidents, such as falls or drowning
  • Workplace accidents
  • Defective consumer products
  • Medical malpractice
  • Defective drug and medical device cases

A wrongful death case is not to be confused with a criminal case. A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil remedy used to attempt to recover financial compensation for an accident. A verdict in a civil suit does not carry any criminal penalties. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, the at-fault party may face both criminal and civil penalties. If a criminal case is in the works, that does not prevent a family from also filing a civil wrongful death case.

Who Is Responsible for a Wrongful Death?

The person who is responsible for committing the negligent or wrongful act is typically the person who can be held responsible in court. This could be the reckless driver of a car, a medical professional, or a negligent property owner. However, individuals aren’t the only ones who can be held liable for wrongful death. Companies or other entities may also be held responsible if their negligent actions result in someone’s death. If a defective product or medical device causes a person’s death, the company that manufactured that product may be held liable for wrongful death.

Determining liability can be complicated, and in certain scenarios, more than one person or entity may ultimately be responsible for causing someone’s untimely death. Getting a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side early is the best way to assess liability in a wrongful death claim. It also means that crucial evidence can be gathered before it can be lost or even destroyed.

Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

California law establishes a hierarchy for family members who may wish to pursue a wrongful death case in the event of the loss of a loved one. The victim’s surviving spouse or legal domestic partner is the first in line to be able to file a claim. If the victim does not have a surviving spouse, the victim’s children are next in line. If the deceased passed with no living spouse or children, then the victim’s grandchildren may be able to file a claim.

Other family members may also be able to file a wrongful death claim if the victim left no spouse or children. However, these family members must show that they have been financially dependent on the victim. One of these family members is known as a “putative spouse.” A putative spouse is defined by California law as someone who believed in good faith that they were legally married to the victim.

A putative spouse’s children may also have a viable claim if the putative spouse is no longer living. A victim’s stepchildren, parents, or legal guardian may also be able to file a wrongful death claim, but again, they must have proof that they were financially dependent on the victim at the time of the person’s death.

Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim

Damages in a wrongful death case are meant to compensate surviving family members for their loss. Compensation for the loss falls into two different categories, which include economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are meant to help cover the financial support of close family members such as a spouse or children. Economic damages may be calculated by valuing the cost of burial, funeral costs, and any medical expenses incurred before the victim’s passing. Economic damages may also cover the loss of financial support the family member provided in the way of wages.

Non-economic damages are meant to cover the emotional or psychological impact that the death of the family member caused to the family. Non-economic damages are typically meant to cover emotional distress and pain and suffering. These damages are not easily calculated and are more subjective.

In total, a family may be able to seek damages that cover the following:

  • Medical expenses from the fatal injury
  • Funeral costs
  • Burial costs
  • Loss of future financial support and earnings
  • Loss of benefits
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering

Unlike other states, California does not place a cap on the compensation that a family may be able to recover in a wrongful death suit. Based upon the evidence and details of the case, the courts will decide what the appropriate amount of compensation comes to, and no limit can be placed on that amount. This is true of all wrongful death cases in California except medical malpractice cases.

If you have questions about the value of a potential wrongful death case, speak to a seasoned attorney at OnderLaw.

Statute of Limitations on Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Everyone processes grief differently and in their own time. While this should be respected, those entertaining the idea of filing a wrongful death lawsuit need to know that California places a deadline on when you can file a lawsuit. State law gives family members only two years from the date of the victim’s death to file a suit. Once this deadline passes, a family can lose their right to file at all and severely limit or crush any hope of being able to recover meaningful compensation.

Why Choose OnderLaw to Handle My Wrongful Death Suit?

Coping with the loss of a family member is difficult. The last thing a family wants to deal with during their time of grief is a stiff and cold attorney who treats them as just another transaction. At OnderLaw, we treat people differently, offering not only legal advice but support and compassion. We take the time to get to know you and your family, listen to your story, and help you navigate the often complicated and confusing process of recovering compensation through a wrongful death claim.

You may reach out to us because of our strong track record of success, but you don’t become a client without coming away feeling like we are truly in your corner and ready to support you and your family. It may take time to feel comfortable with the idea of talking to an attorney about your situation, but when you are ready, we are here to listen.

Accidental Death Statistics

Car accident fatalities are one of the leading causes of wrongful death claims. This number may be on the rise since car accident fatalities have been skyrocketing in the San Jose area, according to local news sources. The increase in fatalities was 13 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Another source of wrongful death claims tends to be workplace accidents. The Department of Labor keeps tabs on all workplace-related fatalities. In 2020, a San Jose worker was killed at work when the individual fell through a suspended ceiling.

In some cases, a person who intentionally kills another may be held liable in both criminal and civil court. The San Jose Police Department reports that between January and April of 2021, there have been a total of 14 homicides in the city.

Contact an Experienced San Jose Wrongful Death Attorney Today

The sudden loss of a loved one is a big shock. It takes time to come to grips with the fact that another person’s reckless or negligent actions could have resulted in such a tragic event. Unfortunately, negligent parties may want to take advantage of your grief, hoping that you won’t turn to an attorney for help to recover your due compensation.

Protect yourself and your family. Talk to an experienced San Jose wrongful death attorney today about your situation. We promise to treat you with compassion and dignity as you tell us your story.

Justice for your loved one is at hand. Talk to an attorney with OnderLaw today. Call us to set up your free legal consultation.