NEWPORT BEACH WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEY
A sudden tragic event causing the death of a loved one is almost always traumatic and difficult to deal with. What makes matters worse is when the death was caused by the negligence of another.
Adding insult to injury, before the family has had the chance to grieve, they are often faced with immediate issues, including:
- Medical bills, if the incident did not result in an immediate fatality.
- Funeral costs.
- The loss of their family member’s contributions to their family.
Whether the family member was the breadwinner for the family or not, there will be consequences, financial and otherwise, to their loss. They may have filled roles for the family that no other member will be able to fill, such as taking care of the children, cooking, and/or providing transportation. The loss of a family member, regardless of their role, will have financial consequences for the family.
While pursuing a legal claim is likely the last thing on your mind in the immediate aftermath of the loss of a loved one, it is important that you consult with a qualified wrongful death attorney to evaluate whether you have a claim as early as possible. Not only can claims become time-barred if they are not presented timely, but crucial evidence in your case may be lost if you do not seek representation early enough. Call Younglove Law Group for a free and confidential consultation.
CALIFORNIA’S WRONGFUL DEATH STATUTE
California’s wrongful death statute, Civil Code Section 377.60, outlines who can assert a claim for wrongful death after an incident resulting in loss of life. Specifically, the law states:
A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf:
(a) The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. If the parents of the decedent would be entitled to bring an action under this subdivision, and the parents are deceased, then the legal guardians of the decedent, if any, may bring an action under this subdivision as if they were the decedent’s parents.
Omitted Family Members:
California’s wrongful death statute grants a single joint cause of action to sue the person or persons liable for the death. This means all claimants eligible to assert a claim are only permitted one action against the defendant(s), and only one verdict will be rendered to all claimants for the claim.
When a family member who is eligible to assert a wrongful death claim is omitted it can cause issues with the prosecution of the case because part of the claim remains outstanding. This most often occurs where a child dies and the parents are no longer in contact or when one parent is unwilling to communicate as to their intentions in asserting a claim.
Defense attorneys often fall back on what is called the One-Action Rule. This protects the defendant against a potential future claim by an omitted heir by filing a lawsuit with the heirs who have asserted a claim solely with the purpose of memorializing the absence of the omitted heir in the resolution of the claim. While often unnecessary, this is one solution to the problems caused by omitted claimants.
There are, however, alternatives to addressing an omitted family member in a wrongful death claim. An experienced attorney can guide you through this process to obtain the best result possible. If a family member of yours lost their life due to the negligence of another, call our team of experienced Newport Beach wrongful death attorneys now to see if you have a claim.
For example, in a wrongful death claim involving vehicles, the police will usually preserve the vehicles by placing them in an evidence hold, limiting access until the criminal matter is completed. Being denied access to vehicles involved in the incident can delay identification of issues. For example, if an airbag failed to deploy that should have, a products liability claim may successfully be raised if it can be shown to be causally-related to the fatality. However, without access to the vehicle, this issue will not be spotted until the police hold is lifted and the wrongful death attorney’s consultants are allowed to inspect the vehicle.
Keeping in close touch with the detective can help identify issues before access to all evidence is permitted, and an experienced attorney will know what information to obtain from the police. If a family member of yours lost their life due to the negligence of another, call our team of experienced legal professionals now to see if you have a claim.
VALUING A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM
Unfortunately, the only recourse we have against defendants in the civil arena is to pursue them for damages (money). Wrongful death claims often receive substantial awards from juries, who are permitted to evaluate the value of the claim based on numerous considerations.
California’s jury instructions divide the valuation of a wrongful death claim into 2 main categories, economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages that can be awarded to a wrongful death claimant are the financial support the decedent would have contributed to the family during their life expectancy (based on average life expectancy), the loss of gifts/benefits the decedent would have given to the claimant, funeral/burial expenses, and the reasonable value of household services the decedent would have provided.
Non-economic damages are subjective by definition and are intended as compensation for the loss of decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, sexual relations (if applicable), and the loss of decedent’s guidance. As these are subjective elements, the jury is entrusted to apply their own judgement in valuing this portion of a wrongful death claim.
While certain facts giving rise to a fatality can be frustrating, if not infuriating, punitive damages are unfortunately not available in wrongful death claims.
In short, wrongful deaths are complex claims that require a thorough understanding of the applicable laws. If a family member of yours lost their life due to the negligence of another, call our team of experienced legal professionals now to see if you have a claim.