A loved one’s death brings unimaginable pain and it can be even more hurtful if the tragedy was caused by someone else’s negligence. The emotional and financial losses you suffer are compounded by knowing that they could have been avoided if only the at-fault party was more careful.
A wrongful death claim may ease this pain. Following your loved one’s death, you may not be thinking about legal claims as a priority but obtaining your rightful compensation can lighten your monetary burdens and give you a sense of justice. This financial and emotional relief can work towards your healing.
Turn to us at Barrios & Machado to handle your wrongful death case in Southern California. Our lawyers are competent and effective in obtaining favorable settlements for bereaved families, and we always ensure to treat you with genuine compassion throughout this difficult episode. Let’s explore how we can help you. Call or text us at (714) 515-9696 today.
Do I Have A Wrongful Death Claim?
Not all deaths can be considered a “wrongful death,” so you may be wondering if your loved one’s demise entitles your family to compensation. What makes a wrongful death case? In a nutshell, it is a wrongful death if it resulted from the negligent behavior of another party. Specifically, it has to have all of these elements:
- A person died.
- The death was caused by another party’s negligence or intent to harm.
- The family or survivors of the deceased have suffered losses (also called damages).
Accident fatalities are usually considered wrongful deaths, but it’s not just accidents that result in wrongful death cases. Various causes of wrongful death include:
- Car collisions, truck wrecks, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents or bike crashes, and other road accidents
- Abuse, neglect, or negligence at nursing homes
- Slips and falls at someone else’s unsafe property
- Construction site accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Injuries from defective products
- Work-related injuries or illnesses.
To determine if you have a wrongful death claim, discuss the case with a knowledgeable attorney. We at Barrios & Machado can thoroughly examine your loved one’s death from a legal perspective. We can help determine whether the necessary elements exist for a wrongful death claim.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim? Who Can Receive Compensation?
In California, these are the persons who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The decedent’s (deceased person’s) surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children. Grandchildren may also file, but only if the decedent’s children are deceased as well.
- Minors who were dependent on the decedent for at least 50 percent of their financial support.
- Any person who is entitled to the decedent’s property under California’s intestate succession law (also known as the law of inheritance).
Apart from the person who initiated the claim, other persons may legally receive a share of the wrongful death compensation. Generally, the family who receives the settlement or award is free to divide it among themselves, as long as everyone agrees on the division. If the division is disputed, however, the court may have to decide on the final distribution.
How Much Can You Receive in A California Wrongful Death Case?
There is no monetary average of wrongful death settlements or awards. There is a wide variety of outcomes because each case has a unique combination of factors. To give you an idea of what you may be compensated for, these are some common damages in a wrongful death case:
- Medical expenses related to the decedent’s injury
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of future benefits (e.g. pension, retirement, educational savings, etc)
- Loss of consortium (marital companionship)
- Loss of guidance or training
- Loss of love or emotional care.
There is no formula to calculate the dollar amount of these damages. The jury will have to use its best judgment, looking at available evidence to come up with a reasonable figure.
It is best that you consult a wrongful death lawyer to determine the full value of your case. A competent attorney should be experienced in maximizing your claim, ensuring that all your rights are advocated for.
Time Limits: Don’t Delay Your Wrongful Death Claim
Personal injury and wrongful death cases are subject to the Statute of Limitations – the law that sets a certain period of time within which you must file a lawsuit. In California, the general statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is two years. That means you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a case.
There are some exceptions. One is if you are suing a governmental entity – for example, a negligent public transportation agency or city government. They have some immunity to civil cases. You must file a claim against this entity within six months of the death, and if they deny your claim (as is often the case), you only have another few months to file a lawsuit.
On the other hand, the statute of limitations may be tolled (paused) in a few situations. Some cases employ the “discovery rule,” which applies if you could not have reasonably known about the wrongful death right away. For example, your loved one died of a disease, but you initially did not know that the disease was caused by their job. The discovery rule says that the two-year clock starts running not on the date of death but on the date you discovered the cause of death.
Another reason for tolling is if you were a minor at the time of your loved one’s death. The two-year time period will only start on the day you turn 18.
Finally, there are specific time limits if the wrongful death was due to medical malpractice. In this case, you must bring your claim within three years of the malpractice incident, or one year of when the malpractice should reasonably have been discovered.
Timing is important for a successful wrongful death claim. Even if you’re only hoping to deal with an insurance company and not planning to go to court, you’ll still want to leave the window open for a lawsuit. Too many families have lost their chance for fair compensation because of delaying tactics by insurance companies.
It is of course essential to give yourself time to grieve. To help you take legal steps during this sensitive time, you need legal service that is not only effective but considerate as well. This is the kind of service we offer at Barrios & Machado. With our approachability, constant communication, and patience, we’ll help minimize the legal stress for you so you can focus on your healing.
Free Consultation with Barrios & Machado
Talk to us about your potential wrongful death case. Your initial consultation with us is absolutely free and confidential. Call us at (714) 515-9696 today.