In California, a wrongful death claim falls under civil lawsuits. A wrongful death results when an individual loses his or her loved one because of another party's negligence or wrongful act. A wrongful death claim does not seek to compensate a deceased person for his or her loss before passing on. The claim tries to compensate the living family members for the loss of their loved one. A personal representative of the deceased estate of the deceased person's survivors can also file a wrongful death claim. If you lose your loved one through wrongful death, you can receive compensation for the financial and emotional support you would have received if the deceased person had lived. The jury determines the departed person’s life expectancy by considering his or her health, occupation, and lifestyle to help calculate the damages. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can help you file a wrongful death claim in California to seek compensation.
You can be able to recover the non-economic damages after filing a wrongful death claim in California. The non-economic damages fall under several categories:
- Family members could receive compensation for the loss of companionship and love of the deceased.
- The heirs could receive compensation for the loss of training and guidance that their parents would have provided.
- The domestic partner or spouse could receive compensation for the loss of consortium with the deceased.
- Pain and suffering to the deceased survivors
- Emotional distress to the deceased survivors
- Loss of enjoyment in life by the survivors
- Grief and sorrow
Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is a compensation pursued by the spouse or the registered domestic partner of the deceased after the wrongful death of his or her loved one. The deceased's domestic partner or spouse may file a claim for compensation for the loss of services provided by the deceased. The services that fall under this category include sexual relations, comfort, affection, and love.
Loss of Companionship and Love
It is not easy to put a dollar value on the loss of companionship and love if you lose your loved one because of wrongful death. However, with your lawyer's help, you can determine the value of your compensation by considering similar cases, which the judge could have handled before. The juries also have the liberty to determine the justifiable amount of money that you should receive as compensation. In California, judges have instructions to ensure that the compensation you receive is just and fair.
According to California law, you can seek compensation for emotional distress suffered when you lose your loved one through a wrongful death caused by a negligent party. Emotional distress could include:
- Loss of concentration
- Replaying the events
You can seek your attorney's assistance, who will pursue the case to get the emotional distress compensation; an attorney has the necessary expertise to prove your damage. During the court proceedings, you can prove your emotional distress by giving the testimony of anxiety, flashbacks, and inability to sleep.
Grief, Sorrow, Suffering, and Pain
If you lose your loved one because of wrongful death, the aftermath of the loss can be grief, anguish, sorrow, pain, and suffering. You cannot receive compensation for grief and sorrow you suffered due to the loss of your loved one, according to standard jury instructions under California law.
You cannot claim compensation for the deceased person’s suffering and pain before her/his death. Suffering and pain involve the emotional and physical stress caused by the wrongful death of your loved one. Determining if you qualify for a wrongful death compensation claim, and figuring out the amount you can claim for pain and suffering can be complicated. This is where your competent attorney comes in handy to help you pursue the claim so that you get your deserved compensation.
Loss of Enjoyment in Life
Loss of enjoyment in life means the inability to lead a normal life after losing your loved one. Damages for loss of enjoyment in life may include humiliation, embarrassment, pain, and suffering. If the recklessness or negligence of another party caused the wrongful death of your loved one through an accident or any other way, you could file a compensation claim for loss of enjoyment in life with the deceased.
The economic damages for the wrongful death of your loved one involved, the entire support the deceased would have provided if he or she were still alive. If you lose your loved one because of wrongful death, you will receive the present amount of the support your loved one would have provided as compensation under California law. While determining the present amount, the judge will consider the support your loved one would have offered if she/he remained alive and enjoyed a normal period of life.
If a father or mother dies and leaves young children behind, the children are entitled to financial compensation for the support they would have received from their father or mother while alive. The court will consider the period the children have until they reach adulthood. The children could prove that their parents' support would have extended into adulthood as the children pursued higher education. In this case, the children may receive a higher amount of compensation.
The economic damages will also include all the gifts and benefits the surviving son or daughter would have received from the departed father or mother while alive. Economic damages could also include the domestic services your loved one provided in monetary form.
The departed partner's spouse is entitled to the financial support, which she/he would have gotten from the departed. In this case, the judge will consider the departed life expectancy or the living spouse's life expectancy, whichever is shorter. Some of the economic damages you may pursue compensation in wrongful death include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The loss of benefits, or gifts the deceased provided
- The loss of reasonable value of household services provided by the deceased
- Loss of deceased income
- Medical expenses
Loss of Deceased Income
The sudden loss of a loved one as a wrongful death can be devastating to the family. The trauma they suffer is not just emotional, but financial as well. Making financial and funeral arrangements could lead to overwhelming grief. With huge bills and the knowledge that the breadwinner is gone, the survivors could experience unbearable stress. A wrongful death claim in California can allow a family to recover financial damages such as loss of the deceased income.
Under California law, you may seek to recover compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one’s reasonably expected loss of income. However, it can be complicated to determine what is reasonable sometimes. This is because the income may include your loved one's wages and other benefits such as pension and retirement payment. Some factors that may determine the value of your loved one lost income in a wrongful death case:
- The deceased life expectancy
- The deceased retirement age and applicable plans
- The deceased wage rates and other expected supplemental income
- The deceased age at the time of death
Burial and Funeral Expenses
Burial and funeral expenses can be included in a wrongful death claim as part of the damages, as long as you can prove that they are reasonable. To recover a compensation claim for your loved one's funeral expenses, you need the assistance of a competent attorney. It is advisable to remember to keep track of all the necessary records and receipts for the burial expenses. Your attorney will analyze the records and help you get a reasonable compensation in your wrongful death claim. The costs associated with funeral and burial include:
- Tombstone costs
- Flowers costs
- Casket or urn costs
- Basic services fee
- Preparing the body for burial or cremation
- Rental of a funeral home for viewing
- Vehicle rental for a funeral procession
- Printed materials
- Reception venue and refreshments
- Burial plot, columbarium/mausoleum space or vault
If you lose your loved one in the hospital while undergoing treatment due to the negligence of another party, you can seek compensation for medical bills incurred. The medical bills typically involve all substantial and reasonable medical-related bills the deceased incurred before they died. The treatment includes that was meant to save your loved one's life, such as surgeries or medications.
In California's wrongful death case, you cannot be able to pursue compensation for punitive damages. However, if your loved one died due to a felony homicide for which the responsible party has received a conviction, there is an exception to California's law. You can get punitive damages through a survival action on behalf of the loved one estate. When different individuals file a combination of several wrongful death lawsuits, it becomes a survival action.
Only the deceased's relatives and heirs are qualified to get the compensation of wrongful death for the loss of their loved one. Claimants can also get a chance to seek compensation for claims unrelated to death using a survival action. The children can file compensation claims, which their departed parent had a right to sue before passing on. Dependents can also pursue compensation for injuries the departed sustained before he/she passed on. However, if you file a wrongful death claim instead of a survival action, you will likely get a considerable compensation.
Who Pursues a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Under California law civil procedure, 377.60 some specified individuals are eligible to seek compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one. They include:
- The children of the deceased
- The deceased domestic partner
- Any other individual who would be a beneficiary of the departed person’s property under the California estate succession laws
- Stepchildren or other minor children who depended on the departed for more than 50% of their support.
- The departed person’s grandchildren if the children are not alive
- The departed person’s surviving spouse
Cases that Qualify for Wrongful Death Compensation
Some cases that may always lead to wrongful deaths are as follows:
Slip and Fall Accidents
It must be evident that the slip and fall happened because of the negligence of another party for a wrongful death lawsuit to succeed. The property owner could be held responsible if she/he knew or should have known that a dangerous condition existed in his/her property. However, not every fall qualifies you to seek compensation for slip and fall accidents. Premises liability accidents in California fall under slip and fall accidents. You must provide evidence that the owner of the property failed to repair the condition. It should be evident that the property owner knew that the hazardous condition existed but failed to correct it.
If you lose your loved one due to a deliberate wrongful act like murder, the lawsuit will fall under intentional acts. Several intentional acts could lead to the loss of your loved one. You have all the right to file a wrongful death claim, as long as the wrongful act was intentional. Manslaughter and murder are among the common intentional acts in California. Many insurers do not cover losses that arise due to intentional acts. If the responsible party does not have a reasonable income to pay the wrongful death claim, most people do not pursue it. However, your competent attorney can help you get compensation.
You can seek compensation if you lose your loved one in a negligent car accident. Engaging in distracted driving and failure to follow traffic rules are common causes of car accidents. In California, intoxication and reckless driving also cause the majority of car accidents.
If your loved one dies due to suicide, you could file a wrongful death lawsuit. For instance, the primary caregiver might be responsible if an elder commits suicide. You can seek compensation against an individual who had a special duty of care to the departed. A therapist or a school counselor could be liable for the death of a student due to distress if he or she had noticed signs of distress in a student but failed to act.
In California, you could base a wrongful death compensation claim on extreme behavior like ridicule if your loved one committed suicide because of emotional distress. In this case, the party responsible for ridiculing the departed could be liable.
In California, it is common for vehicles to knock down pedestrians on the streets, parking lots, and highways. Most drivers fail to yield a right of way to pedestrians, and they end up crashing them. Pedestrian accidents mainly occur when the drivers engage in reckless driving like over speeding. Many wrongful deaths also happen due to pedestrian accidents brought about by intoxicated vehicle drivers.
You should not fail to pursue a compensation claim if you lose your loved one in a wrongful death due to medical malpractice. If your loved one sustains injuries and dies due to medical professionals' negligence, you can pursue compensation for medical malpractice. Your attorney can help to investigate the case and fight on your behalf. Most people always believe that due to medical practice damage caps, an attorney might not be willing to pursue their case. A competent attorney can follow your case until you receive your well-deserved compensation in a medical malpractice claim.
Exposure to Toxic Substances
Many states in the United States have specific laws that govern wrongful deaths because of toxic products. If your loved one dies due to exposure to harmful or toxic substances, you could file a wrongful death compensation claim. For instance, wrongful death could have happened because of exposure to asbestos. With the help of an experienced attorney, you can help you seek compensation for the loss of your loved one due to harmful products.
If you lose your loved one due to defective products, you could pursue compensation from the products' manufacturers. Deaths from unsafe products could also involve deaths occurring from defective motor vehicles and machines. It is common for wrongful death lawsuits to come about due to dangerous products. You could lose your loved one for consuming unsafe products emitted into the shopping center by pharmaceutical companies. Your loved one could also die after consuming tainted food; food could be harmful due to lack of proper inspection and preparation.
Even if the defendant did not act negligently, it is possible to file a wrongful death compensation claim. For instance, if you lose your loved one due to dog bite or mauling, you could file a strict liability lawsuit. If your loved one dies due to a defective product, you could also file a strict liability lawsuit. You can seek compensation for wrongful death irrespective of the cause of your loved one's death. However, the aspect of negligence must exist; the departed must have passed on due to the negligence of another party. You can also seek compensation claim for wrongful death if you lose your loved one due to:
- Elder abuse or neglect
- Assault and battery
- Child abuse or neglect
How Wrongful Death Damage is Calculated
It is impossible to state the exact amount that can compensate you for the loss of your loved one. Under California law, several factors determine the compensation for the wrongful death of your loved one. The factors include:
- The age of the deceased
- The age and circumstances of the deceased dependents
- Funeral expenses
- The deceased earning capacity
- Medical bills for the deceased
- The deceased education and training
- Their health before death
- The value of lost benefits such as pensions and health insurance
The courts always base wrongful death damages on objective evidence from expert accounts, economists, and other qualified witnesses. There are two major components in calculating the damages in a wrongful death case. The components are:
Calculating the Deceased’s Lost Earnings
A certified economist can help the deceased's relatives in calculating the money the deceased would have supported or given to his or her loved ones. The economist may consider several factors such as the deceased background, education, career, and age to determine the amount the departed would have earned. However, the liable party, through his or her witnesses, may dispute the amount claimed. This is where the jurors or the court comes in handy, to determine the reasonable amount to be compensated.
The amount should accurately represent the deceased person’s future income, the income the deceased would have earned while still alive. Beyond the simple savings and income, other calculations can be included. The amount of any care or services are also considered; this includes childcare, laundry, education, medical care, cooking, house cleaning, and other contributions.
Calculating Anguish, Pain, and Loss of Companionship
Loss of companionship, pain, and anguish is another major component considered while calculating wrongful death damages suffered by the deceased person’s surviving members. The children, parents, and surviving spouses are always qualified for compensation for the loss of their loved one under California law. The judge will determine the value of the deceased to his or her loved ones.
The Role of an Attorney
Filing a wrongful death claim is more complicated than filing other lawsuits in California. Determining the ideal wrongful death compensation requires proper reasoning and subjective judgment. Without the help of an experienced attorney, it would be hard to seek rightful compensation.
An attorney combines both expertise and experience; probably, your attorney has helped many people seek wrongful death compensations. An attorney understands all the tricks that insurance companies use to deny claimants their rightful benefits.
Your attorney will determine all the relevant compensation and handle the insurance company on your behalf. If the case proceeds to court, the attorney will represent you until you get a good settlement. You do not have to worry about the intricate claim process.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
After losing your loved one due to another person's wrongful acts, you might feel helpless and think that all is lost. However, you could file a wrongful death claim and hold the liable parties responsible. The Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm can guide you through the claim process and help you receive a good settlement. Contact us at 619-625-8707 and speak to one of our California attorneys.