Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer
When one person intentionally or accidentally causes the death of another person, the surviving family members of the deceased should speak to a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer. Through a wrongful death claim, family members can recover financial compensation for the losses associated with the death. In California, family members can also file a survival action, which compensates the deceased’s estate for the losses the deceased sustained before their death.
If you have lost someone, you need sound legal advice during this incredibly difficult time. Financial compensation can never bring your loved one back. However, it can offset the financial burden the death imposed on you, such as if you were dependent on the deceased’s income. Below, one of our skilled attorneys at Personal Injury Legal Group explains more.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim in Los Angeles?
There are a number of ways fatal accidents occur in Los Angeles. Tragically, a defective product or a negligent act on the road can cost someone their life. The legal system in Los Angeles allows surviving family members to file a claim against the negligent party who caused the death.
Even though wrongful death entails someone losing their life, these claims are not handled in the criminal court system. Instead, they are civil claims. Still, the person responsible for the death may have to appear in both criminal and civil court if the reason for the death was against the law.
For example, vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person acts negligently or illegally while operating a vehicle and their actions result in the death of another person. Vehicular manslaughter is a criminal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison. The driver who caused the death may have to appear in criminal court so a judge or jury can determine if they are innocent or guilty. The driver may also have to appear in civil court to fight back against the lawsuit and to prove that they are not liable for paying damages.
How a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help?
Wrongful death is a complicated area of law, and these cases typically have high values. In order to ensure you receive the greatest amount of financial compensation you deserve under the law, it is important to work with a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer. When working on your case, a lawyer will provide invaluable help in the following ways:
- Use their experience to properly prepare you and draw on their years of experience in handling similar fatal accident cases,
- Determine if a probate estate should be created so the estate can file the claim, particularly when multiple people are entitled to recover compensation for the death,
- Establish the type of life the deceased would have lived had the accident not occurred, using the individual’s health, occupation, life expectancy, and the hobbies and activities they enjoyed
- Accurately value the wrongful death claim based on the deceased’s employment, salary, work history, and future lost income, and
- Strategize on how best to convey the companionship, care, and support the deceased provided family members with, to establish these non-economic losses.
The above are just a few ways a wrongful death lawyer can assist with your case and help you obtain the full and fair damages to which you are entitled.
Wrongful Death Claims vs. Survival Actions
After a person is killed by the negligent or intentional actions of another person, family members can often file both a wrongful death claim and a survival action. These two claims are often filed at the same time, but they are different.
Wrongful death claims are meant to compensate surviving loved ones for the losses they sustained as a result of the death. Loss of consortium and the loss of the deceased’s income the family was dependent on are two common types of damages in wrongful death claims. A wrongful death claim cannot recover the losses the deceased incurred before their death.
A survival action can help recover damages for any loss the deceased incurred prior to their death. Survival actions are typically filed when someone was injured in their accident and succumbed to their injuries some time later. For example, a person may be involved in a very serious car accident. They do not pass away immediately but are taken to the hospital to receive the necessary treatment for their injuries. One week later, they may pass away due to the injuries sustained during the crash.
In this case, a survival action can help the estate of the deceased recover their losses between the time of the accident and the time of death. Damages may include their medical expenses, lost income, and the pain and suffering they endured.
There is an important difference in the damages that can be recovered through wrongful death claims and survival actions. Under California law, loved ones cannot recover punitive damages through a wrongful death claim. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate loved ones for their losses. Instead, their purpose is to punish defendants for gross negligence or recklessness and deter them from behaving in the same manner in the future.
Unlike in survival actions, family members cannot pursue punitive damages in wrongful death claims. This is due to the fact that family members did not actually sustain any personal injury or property damage that would otherwise allow for punitive damages.
Common Accidents That Result in Wrongful Death
Any type of accident has the potential to become fatal. However, there are some that more commonly result in wrongful death than others. These are as follows:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Bus accidents
- Commercial vehicle accidents
- Construction accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Train accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Defective products
- Trucking accidents
- Sporting accidents
- Cruise ship accidents
Steps to Take After a Wrongful Death
Like all personal injury cases, you will have to prove your family member was killed due to another person’s negligence, as well as any loss you are seeking to recover in your wrongful death claim. To give you the best chance of success, there are certain steps you should take. These are as follows:
- Obtain a death certificate to prove that your loved one passed away.
- Choose our law firm, Personal Injury Law Group, to represent you, as we have extensive experience with wrongful death cases.
- Participate in any investigation your lawyer conducts and respond quickly to requests for certain items, such as financial documents.
- Gather evidence that can prove your case. For example, if you were with your loved one during the same car accident that took their life, take photographs and video footage while still at the scene.
- Retain any invoice or receipt that shows the expenses you have incurred because of the death.
Any death can be devastating to a family, but a wrongful death may cause you to feel even more anger, stress, and frustration. It is often helpful to join a support group or receive individual therapy to help you sort through your emotions.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Los Angeles?
Not everyone has the legal right to file a wrongful death claim. Only certain family members have this right. The laws on who can file a wrongful death claim are very similar to the intestate laws of the state that dictate how a person’s estate is to be distributed if they pass away without a will. The people who have the first right to file a wrongful death claim are as follows:
- The surviving spouse of the deceased
- Any surviving children or dependent stepchildren of the deceased
- Any minor who has lived with the deceased for six months or more
- The dependent parents of the deceased
If there are no surviving family members in the above categories, the surviving parents of the deceased have the right to file a claim. If there are no surviving parents, the siblings of the deceased or their children have the right to file a claim. If the deceased did not have surviving siblings, the grandparents then have the right to file. If the deceased did not have surviving grandparents, any children of a spouse who previously passed away are given the right to file a claim.
Lastly, if no one falls into any of the above categories, the next of kin of the deceased have the right to file a claim. Any of the above parties also have the right to have the personal representative of the estate file a wrongful death claim. Even when the personal representative is the one to file, any damages awarded are distributed to the family members of the deceased as outlined by the wrongful death statute.
Attorney Representation for Wrongful Death Claims in California
A wrongful death can traumatize an entire family. Holding the correct individual, company, or large entity accountable is not only a way to help secure your family’s financial future, but also, it is a way to help deter future acts of wrongdoing and negligence. If your loved one was a victim of a wrongful death, we invite you to conduct a free consultation with a Personal Injury Legal Group attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and exercise your wrongful death claim options.
The attorneys at Personal Injury Legal Group are dedicated, compassionate, and skillful at advocating for your family’s rights. We recognize that your case is critical to the healing and financial stability of your family as well as possibly being a matter of public safety. Kosnett Personal Injury has successfully won millions of dollars for deserving families of wrongful death cases. You need an experienced and dedicated partner handling these legalities and affording you and your family members compensatory damages and some peace of mind.
Proving Wrongful Death
California law specifies the parties who are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. In each instance, the lawsuit may be filed by the decedent’s personal or legal representative on behalf of his or her family members or heirs.
The individuals who may file a suit on behalf of the wrongful death victim include:
- A surviving spouse or domestic partner
- A surviving child or children
- Grandchildren if a child was predeceased and has living children
- Additional dependents such as a putative spouse (someone whose marriage is invalid but possesses the good faith belief that he or she was married to the departed)
- A putative spouse’s minor children
- A surviving parent/parents
- Any minor who lived with and was financially dependent on the deceased for the past 180 consecutive days prior to the wrongful death
While multiple people have the legal right to file for wrongful death damages, California law will only allow a single claimant to file a case on behalf of one deceased person.
The person who files a wrongful death claim must file on behalf of all parties who are eligible to receive compensation under the California statute for wrongful death claims. The only exception is when someone who is entitled to receive benefits wishes to be excluded from the suit.
At Personal Injury Legal Group, our Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorneys Also Focus on the Following Practice Areas:
- Car Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Bus Accidents
- Catastrophic Injuries
- Commercial Vehicle Accidents
- Construction Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Train Accidents
- Slip & Falls
- Product Liability
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Uber & Lyft
- Trucking Accidents
- Sports Injury
- Cruise Ship Accidents
Personal Injury Legal Group headquarters are located in Los Angeles with additional offices throughout California. Since 1999, we have been serving clients nationwide, with a concentration in Southern California counties including Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Orange, San Diego, Kern, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial. We also serve Northern California counties of San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Sacramento, San Mateo, Solano, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo, and Sonoma.
How Our Wrongful Death Lawyers in Los Angeles Can Help
Dealing with the death of a family member is never easy. At Personal Injury Legal Group, our Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers can handle every aspect of your claim to give you the best chance of obtaining the full and fair settlement that is justly yours. Call us now at 310-388-4306 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help with your case.
Frequently Asked Questions for Los Angeles Wrongful Death
What types of damages can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Depending on the circumstances of the case, damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit in California may include compensation for medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost income, and loss of companionship.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
In California, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the deceased person’s death.
What is the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit?
The burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit in California is typically “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that the plaintiff must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions caused the death.
Can a criminal case and a wrongful death lawsuit be pursued at the same time?
Yes, a criminal case and a wrongful death lawsuit can be pursued at the same time, although they are separate legal processes.
What if the deceased person was partially responsible for their own death?
In California, if the deceased person was partially responsible for their own death, the damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit may be reduced to reflect their level of fault.
Can a wrongful death lawsuit be filed if the deceased person was not a California resident?
Yes, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in California if the deceased person died in California, even if they were not a resident of the state.
What is the role of a personal representative in a wrongful death lawsuit?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, a personal representative is typically appointed to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate and bring the lawsuit.
Can a wrongful death lawsuit be settled out of court?
Yes, a wrongful death lawsuit can be settled out of court in California if the parties involved are able to reach an agreement.
Do I need a lawyer to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
It is highly recommended to hire a lawyer with experience in wrongful death cases in Los Angeles to navigate the legal complexities and ensure the best possible outcome.