Wrongful death claims are some of the most tragic cases the attorneys at Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates represent. A wrongful death claim is the functional replacement for a personal injury claim a deceased individual could have filed had they survived. Every state upholds specific laws pertaining to wrongful death actions. If you recently lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another party, our team could help you hold them accountable with a wrongful death claim.
No amount of compensation can bring back a loved one. If your family member died as a result of someone else’s negligence, you have the right to receive compensation for funeral expenses, remaining medical bills, the pain and suffering your loved one went through, lost wages, loss of future wages and loss of consortium. You deserve to seek justice on behalf of your family member, and for the sake of your family. We can hold those negligent parties legally accountable for the death of your loved one and help you receive justice. While no amount of money can replace your loved one, we can help ensure that you receive justice.
Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases are simply personal injury cases in which the victim died from the injuries suffered due to someone else’s negligence. Some of the types of wrongful death cases could include the following:
- Car accidents. Accidental deaths from motor vehicle accidents are the most common throughout the United States. If another driver caused the death of your loved one, the survivors would need to prove the driver failed in their duty of care to drive safely in some way. Car accidents can cause wrongful deaths when drivers operate their vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when they drive distracted, or when they engage in reckless maneuvers behind the wheel.
- Workplace accidents. Each year, thousands of people die from workplace injuries and accidents. Some industries like construction and commercial logging are more dangerous than others, but the reality is that it is possible for many people to face a risk of a deadly accident at the workplace. If your loved one died while performing their job duties, you can collect workers’ compensation survivor benefits and also pursue a wrongful death claim if another party is clearly responsible for the death in question.
- Violent crime. In the case that your loved one has suffered a fatal injury at the hands of criminals. For example, if your loved one died because of an armed robbery, you would have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the person who committed the armed robbery. They also can be criminally prosecuted by the state, which would likely lead to many years in prison and additional penalties after conviction.
- Slip and fall accidents. The owner of a property has a responsibility to keep visitors safe on their property. If they notice a safety hazard that a visitor is likely to encounter while on their property, they have a legal duty to address it promptly and effectively, or at least warn the visitor about the hazard. Property owners are liable for slip and fall injuries to guests, lawful visitors, and licensees such as mail carriers and utility company personnel. They do not owe a duty of care to trespassers or intruders.
- Trucking accidents. Commercial trucking is one of the most important components of the US economy. However, commercial trucks are the largest vehicles on the road and can easily cause devastating injuries and fatalities. If you lost a loved one in a truck accident, it’s possible for the driver, their employer, or multiple defendants to bear liability for the death.
- Dog bites. Thousands of people suffer dog bites and other dog attack-related injuries each year. However, some of these incidents are fatal. California enforces a strict liability law when it comes to dog attacks, meaning a dog’s owner is liable for any injuries and other damages their dog causes. For example, if a dog attacks a person and knocks them to the ground causing a fatal head injury, the dog’s owner would be liable for wrongful death.
- Motorcycle accidents. Motorcycles may be fun to drive, but they offer riders and passengers no protection in a crash. If you lost a loved one in a fatal motorcycle accident that you believe occurred because of the negligence of another driver, you have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the accident.
- Pedestrian accidents. When a driver hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian is likely to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries. Drivers always have a duty of care to prevent accidents with pedestrians, so if your loved one died because a driver hit them with their vehicle, you have grounds for a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver.
- Bicycle accidents. Bicyclists have many of the same rights as motor vehicle drivers on most roads in California. If a driver causes fatalities with a bicyclist, the driver is liable for wrongful death.
- Medical malpractice. Medical errors are a leading cause of accidental deaths and injuries throughout the United States. If you believe your loved one died due to medical negligence, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim for medical malpractice. Your attorney can help you navigate the special proceedings required for medical malpractice claims, such as medical board review of your claim and expert witness testimony from relevant medical professionals. It is important to remember that California does limit noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims to $250,000.
- Military medical malpractice. If your loved one died because of negligent medical care from a military doctor, you can still file a wrongful death claim. However, suing any government entity requires different procedures than filing wrongful death claims against private doctors. Your attorney can help you navigate the statutory requirements pertaining to military medical malpractice claims.
- Nursing home neglect and abuse. If you trusted a nursing home to care for your elderly loved one and their staff abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated your loved one in some way that led to their death, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the nursing home and/or the employee directly responsible for the death. California enforces strict elder abuse laws, so it is vital to have a reliable attorney guide you through this type of case.
- Product liability. Some consumer products can cause fatal injuries if they are defective or unreasonably dangerous. If you believe your loved one’s death occurred due to an unreasonably dangerous or defective consumer product, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim under product liability law. You must prove that the product in question was defective or unreasonably dangerous in some way that directly caused your loved one’s death.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible ways for a wrongful death to occur. What qualifies as “wrongful death” is any fatality that occurs due to the negligence of another party. Ultimately, if you believe another party bears responsibility for the death of your loved one, you likely have grounds to file a wrongful death claim. If you are unsure of your legal options following the unexpected death of a loved one, consult an experienced San Diego, California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to determine your best options for legal recourse.
The majority of the most commonly cited causes of personal injury claims also cause wrongful death claims. If you and your loved ones believe you have grounds to file a wrongful death action against the party responsible for the death of a relative, it is important to know how wrongful death claims align with personal injury claims and the key differences.
Primarily, a wrongful death action provides the plaintiffs with different types of compensation than are typically available in a personal injury claim. This is because a wrongful death action seeks to repay the family’s loss and the economic impact of the deceased’s final injury or illness. Your wrongful death claim could be worth much more than you originally expected, especially when you have a reliable and experienced San Diego wrongful death attorney on your side supporting your case.
Types of Compensation for Wrongful Death
You have the right to receive different types of compensation depending on the facts and circumstances of your loved one’s death due to someone else’s negligence. Some of those types of compensation can include:
- Funeral expenses. The plaintiffs have the right to seek reasonable repayment of their loved one’s funeral and burial expenses. If the deceased has specific wishes regarding their funeral and/or burial options, the family has the right to demand compensation that aligns with the deceased’s wishes, within reason.
- Medical bills. In some wrongful death claims, the deceased lingers for some time after their final injury or illness before they pass. The family in a wrongful death claim can seek compensation for the medical bills the deceased incurred during their last days of treatment, such as hospital bills, surgery fees, hospice care, and any other medical expenses resulting from the defendant’s negligence.
- Pain and suffering. Generally, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim cannot seek compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering prior to their death. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as in the event a wrongful death is preceded by elder abuse committed by the defendant.
- Loss of wages. If the plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim were financially dependent on the deceased, and the deceased was unable to work during their final days, the family can seek compensation for the income lost during this time.
- Loss of future wages. California’s wrongful death statutes allow the plaintiffs in a wrongful death claim to secure compensation for the future income the deceased could have provided had they survived. Typically, the plaintiff’s California wrongful death attorney will calculate the deceased’s income prior to their death and multiply it by the number of years they would have naturally lived had the incident in question not occurred, based on available data concerning average life expectancy.
- Loss of companionship. The surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and other close relatives of the deceased can secure noneconomic damages to account for the loss of affection, guidance, care, and companionship the deceased provided. Your attorney can help you determine an appropriate figure to include in your wrongful death claim.
- Loss of consortium. The surviving spouse or domestic partner of the deceased has the right to claim compensation for their loss of affection and enjoyment of sexual relations with the deceased. Again, your attorney will help you determine an appropriate figure to include with your claim to account for loss of consortium.
- Loss of retirement or pension benefits. If the deceased held appreciating investments such as a retirement account, or if they collected a pension they expected to continue receiving until their death, the family can secure compensation for future pension payments and any lost retirement account funds.
- Punitive damages. Depending on the nature of the death in question, the judge overseeing the wrongful death case could award the plaintiffs punitive damages to reflect the defendant’s behavior. Punitive damages are typically reserved for cases in which a defendant acted with egregious negligence or committed a crime that led to the death in question. The amount paid in punitive damages generally depends on the financial status of the defendant.
Ultimately, money can never replace a lost loved one, but appropriate compensation for your family’s losses can help you secure some measure of peace of mind by helping you account for the financial impact of the death in question. The right San Diego wrongful death attorney can be instrumental in helping your family recover, and more importantly, holding the defendant accountable for their negligent and/or criminal actions.
How Do I Choose a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Finding the right California wrongful death lawyer to represent you is crucial if you want to succeed with your claim. Your attorney can perform several valuable legal services and guide you through your case with confidence. If you plan to hire a wrongful death attorney to represent your claim, it is vital to know a few basic questions to ask during your initial case evaluation so you can determine whether the attorney is the right choice for you and your family:
- “How much experience do you have with wrongful death actions?” Experience is one of the most important factors to evaluate when choosing an attorney to represent you. Make sure the attorney has a solid record of successful wrongful death claims behind them and the professional resources necessary to manage the unique aspects of your case.
- “What outcome do you expect in my wrongful death claim?” A capable attorney should be able to quickly and accurately identify the biggest challenges and opportunities likely to appear in your case. Ask them for an honest interpretation of your situation and your likelihood of success with the claim.
- “How do you expect my case to proceed?” Many civil claims, including wrongful death claims, do not go to trial but settle outside of the courtroom. Ask the attorney how they anticipate your case unfolding. They should be able to offer a rough estimate of your case’s expected timetable and whether settlement or litigation is more likely to lead to a positive outcome.
- “How much do you charge for your representation?” Most personal injury attorneys who handle wrongful death claims offer contingency fee billing, but others charge for their services by the hour. Find out how your attorney bills their clients and make sure you are entirely clear about their billing practices before agreeing to their services.
Along with these basic questions, you should develop several more questions that are more specific to your case. The attorneys of Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates are confident in our ability to represent your case and guide you to a satisfactory result. We know how devastating the unexpected death of a loved one can be for any family, and our goal is to help you maximize you and your family’s recovery by holding the defendant responsible for their negligence. We also understand that the death of a loved one can lead to lengthy and exhausting probate proceedings. While our firm does not directly provide legal representation for probate or estate administration, we can recommend local probate attorneys who can assist with the other legal implications of your loved one’s death.
Who Has the Right to Sue for Wrongful Death?
California upholds strict laws concerning wrongful death claims, including who has the right to file these claims. Typically, the right to file a wrongful death claim follows state laws for intestate succession. The first party to have the right to file a wrongful death claim is usually the deceased’s spouse, followed by a parent, grown child, or sibling. Extended family may also pursue wrongful death claim if the deceased had no immediate family. In the event the deceased does not have any surviving kin, anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased or who has a valid legal interest in the deceased’s estate has a right to file a wrongful death claim. An experienced San Diego wrongful death attorney can help you determine whether you have the right to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased loved one.
What to Expect from Your San Diego Wrongful Death Attorney
When you hire a law firm to represent you and your loved ones in a wrongful death claim, they should work quickly to ensure the freshness of any available physical evidence and to maximize your compensation. First and foremost, your attorney should help you determine the exact cause of death and identify the party or parties responsible for the death. Some wrongful death claims run in tandem with criminal cases filed against these parties. For example, if your loved one was hit and killed by a drunk driver, the driver will face criminal prosecution for driving under the influence (DUI) and involuntary vehicular manslaughter. You still have the right to file a wrongful death claim in civil court, and your attorney can advise you as to how these two cases may overlap.
What Is Considered Wrongful Death Malpractice?
Some wrongful death claims involve highly complex or technical concepts that require input from relevant experts. For example, if you believe medical malpractice caused your loved one’s death, your attorney can coordinate expert witness testimony from a medical professional who can explain to the court how the defendant in your case failed to uphold the standard of care your loved one required. Other expert witnesses that can play pivotal roles in wrongful death cases include social workers, psychologists, accident reconstruction experts, engineers, and outside legal experts.
Your wrongful death claim will hinge on your ability to identify the defendant or defendants responsible for the death in question and prove they were negligent in some way that directly caused your loved one’s death. Proving negligence involves four basic elements:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care in the situation in question.
- The defendant breached this duty of care in some way.
- The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death in question.
- The plaintiff and their family experienced actual harm as a result of the death.
As long as your San Diego wrongful death attorney is capable of proving these four elements of negligence, success with your wrongful death claim is likely. A good attorney will advise you of any unique variables that are likely to come into play and help you maximize the recovery you obtain from a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
If your loved one died in an accident resulting from someone else’s negligence, you have the right to receive justice as well as compensation for the remaining unexpected medical bills. Ken Sigelman, J.D., M.D., is a doctor who is licensed to practice law in California and Florida and before the U.S. Supreme Court. For more than 20 years, Ken has had an exceptional record of verdicts, settlements and arbitration awards. If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, contact our compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorneys at 866-971-8956 or online today for a free consultation.