Any death as a result of negligence or the wrongful act of another person or entity is considered wrongful death in L.A. and in the entire the state of California. When such a case arises, a wrongful death claim can be made by a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles. The civil lawsuit for this type of cases is brought to court by the direct relatives of the victim.
Our team of lawyers answers some of the most common questions asked by those who have been involved in a wrongful death claim.
What can be considered wrongful death?
Wrongful death can be caused by intentional acts like murder or by negligent acts, like negligent or drunk driving. Other cases in which failure to observe the norms or practices results in an individual’s death include medical malpractice or unsafe premises.
A wrongful death case must be caused by a clear act of negligence by another party. This includes medical malpractice in cases, however, the chances of survival should have been over 50% or the accused party cannot be deemed responsible for the death of the individual. The death of unborn children is not considered wrongful death in California and neither are justifiable homicides.
Who can make a wrongful death claim, helped by a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles?
The California Civil Code describes the nature of a wrongful death accident and the individuals who are entitled to bring forward a wrongful death claim. According to law, direct relatives such as a spouse or children can bring forward such a claim.
If there are no surviving relatives, the wrongful death claim can be brought forward by whoever would have inherited the assets of the deceased through succession.
The Code of Civil Procedure provides information on who may bring forward a wrongful death claim:
the surviving spouse, domestic partner, children;
the putative spouse – the surviving spouse of a void marriage who is found by court to have believed that the marriage to the deceased was valid; the children of the putative spouse, the stepchildren or parents of the deceased – if they were dependent on the individual;
a minor who, at the time of the death, resided for the previous 180 days with the individual in his household and was a dependant.
Is there a time limit that applies to wrongful death lawsuits?
There are a number of ways in which the statute of limitations (the time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit) can be calculated, however, the most common limit is two years from the date of the accident. Other possible limits are calculated in medical malpractice cases where the discovery rule applies.
Our lawyers invite you to watch a video about wrongful death cases presented by our wrongful death attorneys in Los Angeles:
What are the damages available for wrongful death claims in L.A.?
The compensations that can be obtained in a wrongful death case are mostly monetary. The list below includes the types of compensations that can be claimed by victims who have lost a dear one in a wrongful death case:
funeral and burial expenses: all the costs associated with the funeral proceedings, the burial or cremation of the dear departed one.
medical bills: these include the medical treatments that might have been performed right before the death of the individual.
lost income: this includes the wages that may have been expected by the deceased person, compensations for the personal loss of the surviving members.
loss of financial support: alimony may be included here, however, special cases involving the custody of children and the payments that were made by the deceased should be discussed with a lawyer.
Are there any additional damages the victims can obtain?
The loss of a dear one cannot be evaluated in money. Non-economic damages are awarded for loss of companionship, love, comfort care or protection and tutorship, especially in the case of minors. The amount of compensations is different from one case to another and our wrongful death attorneys in Los Angeles will make sure that you will receive the highest amount possible for your loss. The state of California does not allow for punitive damages in wrongful death cases (punishments to the defendant intended to compensate for his/her wrongdoing), except for felony homicide cases.
The elements of a wrongful death claim
In order for a wrongful death claim to stand the plaintiff will need to prove that the death occurred as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. When proving negligence, causation is essential: the negligent or willful misconduct of the defendant must have directly caused the accident. His or her actions must be linked to the cause of death. For example, a physician cannot be accused of wrongful death if his patient died of cancer but he may be held liable for the cause of death was the fact that he administered the wrong kind or dose of medication.
Another element that needs to be proved in a wrongful death case is the loss: the losses suffered by the plaintiff must be traced back directly to the loss of a loved one. These losses refer to material support but also the loss of consortium. A wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles can help you calculate the damages.
Wrongful death lawsuits in California
Wrongful death cases can be settled through trial or outside of court. The compensations the family is entitled to include both an amount of money that will cover the property damage and a significant amount that will cover the financial support and emotional support the deceased individual was providing for his family or spouse.
Wrongful death losses are more complex that usual personal injury accidents because of their emotional component and the need to quantify the loss of companionship, love, and support.
An experienced wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles can help you prove a wrongful death case and bring forward the evidence needed to show that the defendant is to blame for the untimely death of a loved one.
Punitive damages in a wrongful death case in California
Punitive damages have the role of punishing the wrongful acts, in an effort to deter them. In wrongful death cases, these are not commonly awarded, however, the surviving family could claim these types of damages in addition to the compensatory ones, if the deceased suffered an economic loss before death. This can often be in the form of lost wages or medical expenses, however, it can be in another form. When a wrongful death accident result in immediate death, there is no possibility to claim these types of damages as this mandatory precondition for the decedent to have suffered economic losses before his death cannot be sustained.
Working with a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles is important in these cases, especially when also pursuing punitive damages. In general, these have a value that is proportional and reasonable to the value of the compensatory ones, however, in a wrongful death case the types of damages can be lower compared to those that can be awarded when the victim survives.
In some cases, even minor losses occurred before the event that caused the death of a loved one, such as property that was damaged during the same event that caused the death, can present the opportunity for claiming punitive damages as a result of damage sustained by the decedent. The situations in which these types of damages can be awarded are more complex than those for obtaining compensatory damages, this is why it is not common for the surviving families to seek them. However, our wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles is able to provide complete information on the damages you may claim after having lost someone dear in an accident.
Statistics on vehicle wrongful deaths in California
Car accidents that result in fatalities are a common type of wrongful death case across the United States. Given the fact that a loved one has died as a direct result of another individual’s negligence while driving, the family has the right to claim compensation with the help of our wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles.
The California Office of Traffic Safety provides us the following statistics on the overall vehicle accidents and, most importantly, the fatalities that result from such an event:
traffic fatalities decreased by 8.3%, from 3,884 in 2017 to 3,563 in 2018;
alcohol impaired driving fatalities also decreased by 6.8% during the same period, from 1,147 to 1,069;
unrestrained passenger fatalities in all seating positions also decreased by 4.3% from 625 in 2017 to 598 in 2018;
motorcycle fatalities decreased by 15.57% from 578 in 2017 to 488 in 2018; so did motorcycle deaths from not wearing a helmet;
teen motor vehicle fatalities increased from 168 in 2017 to 204 in 2018 (a 21.4% increase in the 16-19 age group); at the same time, the fatalities in the same age group decreased for the driver (teen driver fatalities);
the mileage death rate in 2017 (the number of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled) was 1.13.
Work with our wrongful death attorneys in Los Angeles
Claiming compensations in a wrongful death action is often hard not because of the legal implications or that the family is not entitled to claim damages, but because the emotional impact of the loss is so powerful that the grieving family is not considering these rights. Pursuing rightful legal action is in their right and our team of Los Angeles personal injury lawyers can assist as soon after you have determined that the death of a loved one was occurred as a direct result of someone else’s negligence.
Requesting legal aid should take place as soon as possible, however, the discovery rule can also apply in this case and it means that the surviving family can commence the wrongful death lawsuit when they have discovered the decedent’s cause of death.
You are entitled to receive damages after the death of a loved one irrespective of their age, whether it was the death of a child or al elderly individual. The final compensation will however not depend whatsoever on the age of the individual who has passed away.
Marc Y. Lazo is specialized in personal injury cases as well as in complex business and commercial litigation. He has tried numerous cases to successful verdict and has obtained multiple six-figure judgments in both state and federal court.