If Your Loved One Was Killed in an Accident, Contact Us Today
A wrongful death case can arise in California when somebody dies as a result of the carelessness, negligence, recklessness or intentional act of somebody else. These cases are not to be confused with criminal cases. Wrongful death cases are civil matters with a different burden of proof than criminal cases. For example, the prosecution in a criminal homicide case must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If that defendant is found guilty, it’s likely that he or she will go to prison. In a civil wrongful death case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. That means that the claimant’s version of events is more likely true than not true. In a civil wrongful death claim Los Angeles, money damages are awarded to compensate the decedent’s family in order to compensate them for their losses. Civil courts don’t sentence defendants to prison.
A wrongful death claim Los Angeles can be brought at the same time as an individual is being prosecuted for a crime involving a death. Since it’s a civil case with a different burden of proof, it’s brought by a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer in a different courtroom than the criminal prosecution. There is a different judge and a different jury. The general rule is that California requires a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed within two years of the decedent’s date of death. There are few exceptions to this rule. Failure to bring the action within two years of the decedent’s death is likely to result in dismissal of the lawsuit.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
David Grey is a Los Angeles personal injury attorney who focuses his practice in wrongful death cases. As a wrongful death attorney in Los Angeles, he advises that there are several different categories of wrongful death cases. Here are some common examples:
Auto Accidents: According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) most recent statistics, 37,461 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2016. Auto accidents are the leading cause of wrongful death lawsuits in California. Nearly all of those accidents were preventable.
Large Truck Crashes: A fully loaded 18 wheeler can be more than 70 feet long and weigh up to 80,000 pounds. At highway speeds, they can flatten a passenger car and everybody in it. About 84 percent of those who died in large truck crashes in 2016 were drivers and passengers of other vehicles, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Only about 16 percent were occupants of large trucks.
Motorcycle Crashes: Other than maybe a helmet, motorcyclists are exposed and vulnerable to being killed on the road. There’s no steel body surrounding them, and there are no airbags or seat restraint systems. According to the NHTSA, 5,286 motorcyclists died in accidents in 2016. Most of those fatalities occurred when motorcyclists were thrown from their bikes against or in front of other vehicles, stationary objects or the roadway.
Bicycle Accidents: As per the NHTSA, 840 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in 2016. Like motorcyclists, they’re also exposed and highly vulnerable to fatal injuries.
Medical Malpractice: According to a Los Angeles personal injury attorney from our office and a recent study at Johns Hopkins Medical, medical malpractice deaths may have moved up to the third leading cause of death in the United States. The study concluded that more than 250,000 deaths per year are attributable to medical errors. The complexity of these lawsuits, their expense and vigorous defenses limit the number of medical malpractice wrongful death cases that are brought though. Detractors of the study argue that the numbers are skewed.
Product Liability: A product can be dangerously defective if there is a design or manufacturing defect or a failure to warn of the dangers of its use. Any entity from its manufacturer down to a retailer of the product can be held liable. Think of a power saw that is purchased, taken out of the box, plugged in and electrocutes the purchaser.
Work Accidents and Third Party Liability: Workers’ compensation laws generally bar wrongful death lawsuits, but if an employee of one company dies from the negligence of an employee of another company, a wrongful death lawsuit will likely be permitted.
Who is Allowed to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
Like every other state, California has its own wrongful death statute. Only those people who are designated in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 are permitted to maintain a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. According to the wrongful death attorney Los Angeles from our office, all plaintiffs are required to join in one case. The general rule is that the heirs or the administrator of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Beyond those people, there are exceptions, and the issue becomes complicated. Even if you are an heir or the decedent’s personal administrator, you’ll want to speak with a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer from our office.
What Damages Can Be Claimed?
When damages are awarded in a California wrongful death case, they’re ordinarily divided between the estate for damages in connection with the decedent’s death, or the decedent’s surviving family members for their personal losses. Damages that are ordinarily suffered by the estate include the following:
- Funeral, burial or cremation costs.
- Hospital and medical bills in connection with the decedent’s final injury or illness.
- Income that the decedent would have reasonably expected to earn in his or her lifetime.
As per the surviving family members, here are the types of damages that they might be awarded:
- The value of the household services that were contributed by the decedent.
- The diminished anticipated financial support
- The loss of the decedent’s attention, affection, guidance, emotional and moral support.
Notwithstanding the cause of a wrongful death, you’ll need to consult with and retain a wrongful death attorney Los Angeles. We will listen to you carefully, and after that, we’ll answer your questions. Then, we will advise you of all of your legal options. We realize that it’s difficult, but contact us as soon as possible after any wrongful death case in or around Los Angeles.