According to the National Safety Council, a person dies every five minutes in the U.S. because of the wrongful or negligent behavior of another person. When a person dies suddenly as a result of someone's negligence, the consequences to those left behind can be devastating. In addition to grief and emotional suffering, the surviving family members often suffer significant financial loss.
At John M. O'Brien and Associates, our personal injury attorneys are dedicated to helping affected family members recover the compensation they need to move forward and accept their loss.
If your child, domestic partner, parent or other relative was accidentally killed, you have the legal right to seek justice and file a civil wrongful death lawsuit.
In order to qualify for a wrongful death case, the death has to have been caused by the reckless, negligent or deliberate behavior of another party.
Basically a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil court action filed in order to determine the amount of damages that surviving family members can receive due to the wrongful death of their loved one.
John O'Brien and Associates’ wrongful death attorneys have extensive experience in a complete range of catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims such as:
In order to have a successful in a wrongful death case, the surviving family members must prove:
In case the parties of a wrongful death claim or wrongful death lawsuit agree to solve their differences and release the other party from responsibility, they can dismiss their claim and a settlement occurs.
In the simplest case, the settlement involves a defendant and/or insurance company paying the plaintiff money in exchange of releasing the defendant from all liability arising out of the incident or accident.
If you believe a dear one’s death was caused by someone's negligence, you must act immediately. There are time limits for your complaint, called statute of limitations. These require you to bring a lawsuit within a limited period, otherwise you lose the right to seek benefits deriving from the wrongful death liability.
The statute of limitations depends on who caused the accidental death, how it occurred and the state where it took place.
For instance, according to California legislation, there are at least 3 main time deadlines to take certain legal action in wrongful death claims:
According to California law wrongful death claims can only be filed by individuals that are relatives for the deceased. Such individuals include:
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Legal action in a wrongful death case should be initiated by the victim’s legal representative on behalf of the surviving relatives. A personal representative is a person existent in a Will Contract or appointed by the court to handle the assets of the deceased.
First of all, the victim's death must be shown to have been caused by other party’s negligence or wrongful act. In other words, the responsible party must have been a substantial factor or leading cause of death.
In medical malpractice cases, if the victim's chance of survival was 50% or less prior to the alleged wrongful act, then it would be statistically not probable that the healthcare provider caused the death and such claim can’t be actionable.
In the state of California, the following situations are NOT actionable under the wrongful death law:
In case of suicide, it can be an issue only if the responsible party owed a duty of care to the victim and the responsible party's actions or negligence was a substantial factor in causing the suicide.
An individual’s relationship to the decedent may entitle them to some specific benefits. Compensation can be received by the surviving family members for the following types of damages:
The court will take into consideration a series of factors when determining the amount of damages to be awarded to the survivors of the deceased. These factors involve:
Survivors in a wrongful death case include (in order of priority): parents, siblings, stepchildren, and in some situations, grandparents. The judge may appoint a conservator to hire an attorney to sue for the survivors. Conservators are people who stand in the shoes of someone legally incompetent.
These representatives usually have power of lawyers, get approval and are designated by a probate judge. Once the verdict or the settlement is reached, the proceeds are disbursed. Generally, money is held in trust for an underage individual, until the plaintiff finally reaches majority.
Otherwise (for instance the case of a demented senior), a court supervised trustee delves out funds – on a needed basis – on behalf of their incompetent charge.
An individual’s relationship to the decedent entitles them to specific benefits, as it follows:
Moreover, medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent's injury or death may be recovered by whoever has paid for them.
At John M. O'Brien and Associates we are dedicated to helping mothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters get through what could be the most difficult experience they will ever have to deal with. For instance, we successfully tried a medical malpractice case against an obstetrician in Sacramento whose negligence led to the wrongful death of a mother after giving birth. The patient was a 33-year-old woman who bled to death after a normal vaginal delivery. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict of $2,500,000.
Our firm has obtained millions of dollars in compensation for other grieving family members who have lost a loved one to a preventable tragedy. We have dedicated our practice to helping people who have suffered great loss as the result of another person's negligence in Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area. We serve as tireless advocates for our clients and fight aggressively to ensure they recover the full compensation they deserve.
A: According to California law, the damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim are for both economic and non-economic loss. Economic loss damages are for the past and future loss of financial support provided by the deceased before death, the value of lost household services and funeral expenses and the noneconomic damages are meant to cover the loss of a loved one's companionship, care, affection, love, mentoring, moral support, and guidance.
A: The general statute of limitations in the state of California is two years from the date of the death, but it depends on the nature of the action. For example if we’re dealing with a medical malpractice, it can be one year and if we’re dealing with a minor or a person with a mental disability, it can be extended for more than 2 years. The best advice is to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
A: In general, all wrongful death lawsuits are based on the contingency rule. You only have to pay the fees if a recovery is obtained for you (by verdict or settlement) and these fees are established based on the complexity of the case.
A: In a wrongful death case, each of the sides bears its own attorney's fees. In California, there is no "loser pays" rule.
A: California has special rules that apply to medical malpractice wrongful death cases: non-economic damages are limited to a maximum of $250,000; at least 90 days before a legal action is filed, the defendant must receive a written notice of the plaintiff's intention to sue.
A: Usually the plaintiffs can be the surviving spouse and the deceased's children, and with some extensions defined by certain circumstances (for instance financial dependency or the absence of a surviving spouse) plaintiffs can be the surviving parents of an adult child.