If you’ve recently lost a loved one or family member to a preventable accident or a malicious attack in Santa Ana, you should consider speaking to the Santa Ana personal injury attorneys of OnderLaw about filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit for compensation. We specialize in helping Santa Ana residents get the compensation they deserve after a preventable accident, and we can help you to do the same. Call today, and let us review your case to determine whether you’re eligible. Let us help you and your family move on in peace after a wrongful death. Call today.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death claim or lawsuit is a civil court action brought against a party that has caused the death of someone else, either intentionally or unintentionally. A wrongful death claim can be brought against a variety of parties, such as a corporation for a defective product, a surgeon for medical malpractice, or a motorist for killing someone while driving.

A wrongful death claim can also be used to obtain compensation for a preventable accident if the responsible party has been acquitted in criminal court. It’s not uncommon for someone acquitted of a murder or manslaughter charge to be sued in civil court for wrongful death because the standard of proof for civil cases is lower than for criminal cases.

Who Can Be Held Responsible?

With some exceptions, almost any entity can be held responsible in a wrongful death claim if the death was preventable or intentional. These are some examples of potential wrongful death claims:

  • A truck driver kills another motorist after falling asleep at the wheel
  • A criminal murders someone in the street
  • A company designs and builds a product that malfunctions and kills a person
  • A road maintenance company doesn’t use adequate signage, and the lack of signage ends in the death of an unwary motorist
  • A surgeon makes a fatal mistake during a delicate operation
  • A drunk driver kills a pedestrian in a crosswalk
  • An employer neglects to provide a safe working environment, and an employee dies as a result

Who Is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

California law allows that certain specific people may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim, including the following:

The decedent’s representative

  • Spouse
  • Surviving children
  • Domestic partner
  • Issue of deceased children
  • Parents
  • Legal guardians
  • Putative spouse
  • Stepchildren
  • Any minor dependent on the decedent for support

If the person killed has no living relatives, then the person who is entitled to the decedent’s property can also bring a claim. A putative spouse is anyone who believes in good faith that their marriage to the decedent is still valid.

Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims

Unlike in criminal courts, wrongful death claims do not aim for a criminal conviction but rather have an end goal of obtaining compensation in the form of damages from the responsible party. The amount of compensation you may receive varies widely and depends on the circumstances of the death.

In general, the more malicious or negligent the act that caused the death, the more you should demand in compensation.

You can be compensated for a variety of losses related to the death, financial and otherwise. California Civil Jury Instructions #3921 states that the following can be awarded as economic damages, or losses with a dollar value attached:

  • Loss of gifts or benefits
  • Financial support of the decedent
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Value of household services of the decedent

The law also provides for awarding certain noneconomic damages, or losses with no specific monetary value relating to the experience of the death, such as:

  • Loss of relations
  • Loss of training and guidance
  • Loss of companionship or consortium

Your attorney will help you determine exactly how much to demand in noneconomic damages. The court will not allow consideration of the following when awarding damages because the death of a family member is presumed to cause these losses regardless of the actions of the responsible party:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Emotional distress
  • The financial state of the surviving family members

In many personal injury claims, California allows for the pursuit of exemplary damages, or damages that are intended to punish the bad actor for their negligence or malice rather than to compensate you for any loss. In almost all cases, exemplary damages are not allowed in wrongful death claims.

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

In order to obtain compensation through a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, we must show, with evidence, that the responsible party acted with negligence or intentional malice. California law states that everyone has a duty to not act in a manner that would harm others. If we can show that the party responsible for the death had a responsibility to act in a certain way under the law, didn’t act as they should, their actions caused a preventable accident, and that accident ended in your loved one’s death, we should have a valid claim and be due compensation for your losses.

To prove malicious intent, we must prove that the bad actor intended to harm the decedent, they made non-consensual physical contact, and that contact ended in death.

The statute of limitations is a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for the wrongful death in California. As in other personal injury claims, you have two years from the date of the death to file suit, unless the suit is against a government agency, in which case you have six months to file suit.

Santa Ana Fatal Accident Statistics

Here are some statistics and data regarding fatal accidents in Santa Ana, Orange County, and elsewhere:

  • The majority of fatal accidents in Santa Ana occur at night.
  • The number of people involved in fatal accidents in Santa Ana has been steadily declining since 2016.
  • Statistics show that October is the most dangerous month for fatal accidents in Santa Ana.
  • Men are far more likely to die in a car accident in Orange County than women.
  • There were 242 fatal car accidents in Orange County in 2018.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer for My Wrongful Death Claim?

Hiring an attorney isn’t required by law for wrongful death claims, but not hiring one can make things very difficult for you. A lawyer can help in ways you may not understand.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult under the best of circumstances, but processing the trauma of a tragic loss while simultaneously trying to build a comprehensive wrongful death claim from scratch would be nothing short of overwhelming. You’d be forced to negotiate with insurance adjusters while making burial or funeral arrangements or reliving the experience of the loss every time you have to explain why you’re seeking compensation. A qualified attorney will bring all their knowledge, experience, and objectivity to bear on your case, allowing you to take the time you and your family need to process the loss. We will do the hard work, so you don’t have to.

We have the skills and connections to put together an irrefutable claim. We can retain expert witnesses, hire investigators, and review relevant case law to ensure your claim is complete and doesn’t get delayed or denied entirely because of a technicality.

It may seem hard to believe, but insurance companies will work hard to keep from paying out a wrongful death claim. They will look for any reason to deny you the compensation you deserve. Your attorney will be familiar with the tactics they use and will know how to counter them.

An attorney can give you an advantage that you won’t get on your own. If your demand for compensation is denied, we can help you move forward with a lawsuit against the responsible party directly to take the final decision out of the insurance company’s hands and let a judge or jury decide your case.

Why Hire OnderLaw to Represent Me?

Since 2002, we’ve helped thousands of clients to get fair compensation for their losses, and we can do the same for you. We know what it takes to get a positive outcome in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit because we’ve dealt with them many times before.

We provide more than quality legal counsel. We provide support and perspective during a traumatic experience. You’re more than another settlement to us. We understand that behind every wrongful death claim is a grieving family or individual that deserves compassion, respect, and dignity.

Our compassionate attitude doesn’t stop with our clients. We provide donations of time and money to organizations and charitable causes nationwide, such as the Lupus Foundation of America, MADD, and Toys for Tots.

Head to our results page to read more about the $3.5 billion in settlements and awards we’ve obtained over the last twenty years.

Call Today for a Free Consultation

If you’ve lost a loved one to a preventable accident or another party’s malicious actions, don’t delay any longer. You have limited time to file suit against the people responsible, so call OnderLaw today. We will review your case and advise you about all your options, even if you don’t choose us to represent you. Call now and get the justice you deserve.