The grief that accompanies losing a loved one, perhaps especially when that loss could have been prevented had another party made different choices, can be unimaginably difficult to process. Our firm has had the great honor of representing many families of loved ones who have been lost as a result of another’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous behavior.
We therefore understand the kind of strength, courage, and determination it can take to explore your legal options in the wake of such a profound and preventable loss. If you don’t feel like you are yet ready to make major decisions about your legal situation, that is okay. It is simply important that you receive personalized legal guidance about your options as soon as you can, through a no-cost, confidential, and risk-free consultation with our firm so that when you are ready to make a decision, that decision is an informed one.
Compassionate Legal Representation for the Families of Accident Victims
Our legal team and support staff treat our wrongful death and survivor action cases with a particular kind of care and consideration, simply because there is no other way to properly approach a case that attempts to appropriately honor the memory and suffering of a lost loved one.
Our firm has earned a reputation for excellence and for quality representation and advocacy on behalf of wrongful death case clients because we don’t believe in sacrificing compassion while aggressively pursuing justice on behalf of those who are gone and those left behind. We seek significant outcomes on behalf of our clients in efficient, effective ways without minimizing the amount of focus and attention required to build cases that are as strong as they can possibly be.
If you choose to work with our firm, both your grief and the memory of your lost loved one will be treated with the utmost respect. Some law firms don’t quite understand how to aggressively advocate on behalf of their clients while honoring the humanity inherent in the situation at hand.
Our firm is not among them.
Wrongful Death Actions – An Introduction
Generally speaking, wrongful death claims may be filed in the event that a personal injury case could have been successfully brought by the deceased, had they not succumbed to their injuries. Meaning, that the deceased passed away because those responsible owed them a duty of care, breach that duty through negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous choices, and the deceased’s injuries resulted directly from that breach.
It may not always be easy to know whether your loved ones died in ways that would have allowed them to bring a successful personal injury action in the event that they had lived. It is our job to clarify these legal questions for you. All you need to do is schedule a consultation so that we can determine whether your loved one died under circumstances that may serve as grounds for legal action. A survivor action may be filed simultaneously with a wrongful death action only if your loved one consciously suffered pain before they succumbed to their injuries.
Per California Code, Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60, those eligible to file a wrongful death action (and a survivor action, if applicable) include:
- A surviving spouse
- A surviving domestic partner
- A personal representative of the deceased’s estate
- Surviving children of the deceased
- If the deceased had a child or children who predeceased them, that child’s (or children’s) children
- The parents or legal guardians of the deceased – under specific circumstances
- Other eligible dependents of the deceased, including some non-related minors – under specific circumstances
California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 generally grants eligible individuals two years from the date upon which the deceased lost their life to file a wrongful death action. However, there are some exceptions made in situations involving delayed notification of an individual’s death.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death cases may be filed by the estate of the deceased or the deceased’s eligible loved ones, generally within the first two years following the date of death in question. To succeed, most wrongful death cases – save for those that are argued under rarely applicable legal theories such as strict products liability – must prove that the deceased passed away from injuries that resulted directly from a breach in the defendant’s duty of care to the victim. That breach must manifest as negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous action or inaction. Some of the most common reasons that wrongful death cases are filed include:
- Bicycle Accidents
- Boating Accidents
- Birth Injuries
- Commercial Truck Accidents
- Dangerous and Defective Product Injuries
- Exposure to Toxic Substances
- Medical Negligence and Medical Mistakes
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Occupational Illness
- Passenger Car Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Pharmaceutical Errors
- Premises Liability Accidents
- Recreational Vehicle Accidents
- Work-related Accidents
Civil vs. Criminal Liability
If your loved one died as a result of another’s criminal behavior, it is important to understand that their potential criminal liability is distinct from their potential civil liability. This means that you may be able to hold those responsible accountable for their actions in civil court, regardless of whether they are being held accountable for their actions in criminal court. The outcome of any criminal matters related to your loved one’s death holds no bearing on any civil lawsuit that you may file against those responsible.
A famous example of how this duality plays out in real time involves former California pro-football player O.J. Simpson. In the 1990s, Simpson was arrested and charged with the homicide of his former wife and her friend. He was famously acquitted. However, in the wake of his criminal trial, a civil jury found him to be liable for the deaths in question.
Simpson was then ordered to pay the surviving loved ones of the two homicide victims tens of millions of dollars in compensation for their loss. In short, do not make any assumptions about your civil options, regardless of whether or not anyone is being held criminally liable for the loss of your loved one.
These opportunities for justice are distinct from one another.
If you have already been approached by a legal team tasked with representing one or more of the parties whose breach of duty led to your loved one’s injuries, you’ll want to have our experienced legal team evaluate any settlement offers that the team in question has extended to you and your loved ones. Settlement offers are usually extended before any litigation has been filed for a few reasons. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death, a company or healthcare facility may seek to limit public relations challenges by keeping the matter as quiet as possible.
Litigation can lead to a lot of media attention and some companies and health care facilities are willing to pay upfront to avoid fallout. Additionally, settlement offers may be extended in an effort to avoid costly litigation. These offers may be either fairly valued to better ensure that those affected do not have a good reason to file litigation or settlement offers may be undervalued in an effort to get those affected to agree to a compensation amount that is less than they would be likely to receive if they filed litigation.
Our team will assess any settlement offers that have been extended to you to ensure that they are fairly valued and that their terms do not violate your rights as the surviving loved one of an injury victim. It may or may not be prudent to accept the settlement offer in question. You likely won’t know for sure whether the settlement offer in question is fairly valued until you speak with our team.
Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits
If your loved one died while they were engaging in work-related activities or as a result of unsafe working conditions, your loved one’s eligible dependents may be entitled to death benefits per California’s workers’ compensation laws. Your loved one was likely covered by workers’ compensation insurance if they were classified as a full-time or part-time employee by a company that kept more than a few workers on its payroll. Workers’ compensation death benefits are made available to the eligible dependents of both documented and undocumented workers.
The workers’ compensation system operates independently from the personal injury process. As a result, is important to explore your options related to workers’ compensation death benefits as soon as you can, as this process is even more time-sensitive than the personal injury process tends to be.
Preparing for Your Consultation
Your consultation will be most productive if we are given the opportunity to assess detailed information about the circumstances surrounding the loss of your loved one. Therefore, if you have copies of any accident reports, medical records, contact information for witnesses or treating physicians, and/or any other information that you feel will help us to understand your case that you feel comfortable sharing with us, please bring it along to your consultation. We will keep all information that you share with us during this process confidential.
Additionally, please take a few minutes to write down any questions that you and your loved ones may have about your loved one’s circumstances, your legal options, compensation and insurance issues, and our firm’s approach to representation. We want to make sure to address every concern that you and your loved ones have at this time. The best way to ensure that all of your concerns are addressed is to have them written down so that you can reference them easily during your consultation.
Exploring your legal options in the wake of great loss can take courage and stores of energy that you may not be sure that you currently possess. If it helps you to feel more capable of this undertaking, by all means, please bring along a loved one you trust to your consultation. That way, they can help you to make informed decisions once you’ve received personalized legal guidance.
Again, you do not have to make any major decisions right now if your loss was recent. The statute of limitations period allowed under California law allows you two years to file legal action in the wake of your loved one’s death. However, you won’t want to wait long to speak with an attorney, as waiting too long to alert a legal professional to your situation may compromise your ability to obtain the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled and may affect our ability to preserve your legal rights moving forward.
We look forward to learning about your loved one and to assisting with your legal needs at this time. Trust that both you and the memory of your loved one will be treated with the utmost respect every time that you walk through our office doors.