Rancho Bernardo Wrongful Death Attorneys
The death of a loved one is an experience you should not have to face alone. A knowledgeable and compassionate attorney can help you and your family seek justice and recover losses.
When the life of a loved one is taken too soon, the surviving family members can be left devastated and confused, and struggle to move forward. The deceased victim’s family deserves to mourn their loss without having to endure the hassle and expense of making a legal claim for their losses.
A wrongful death claim can be asserted if the death of a family member is caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another person or entity. A wrongful death case is a civil action in which fault is attributed to the responsible parties through an award of money damages. A successful wrongful death claim can bring justice to the accountable parties and provide the decedent’s family with financial compensation for their losses.
Making a legal claim for wrongful death and obtaining fair compensation is a difficult process that demands a thorough investigation, collection of evidence, and an understanding of several different areas of law. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney who can handle the challenges of a wrongful death claim and advocate for your right to compensation.
Obtain an Aggressive Attorney to Handle Your Wrongful Death Case
Savage Law takes pride in using the law to help people through an extremely tough time in their life. The wrongful death attorneys at Savage Law in Rancho Bernardo sympathize with the family of the victim, understanding the pain and sadness in coping with the tragic loss of a family member. Savage Law is a firm you can trust will fight with everything in its power to honor your deceased loved one, and to obtain the best outcome for you and your family.
As the name suggests, Savage Law uses an aggressive approach with the opposition to resolve wrongful death cases for its clients. The accidental death lawyers at Savage Law are persistent and skilled in negotiating favorable settlement agreements without a lawsuit and trial. If the defendant’s insurance company won’t pay what you deserve, Savage Law is confident and prepared to obtain a favorable judgment from a jury. Consider scheduling a free consultation to speak to a Savage Law injury attorney about your case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
California law allows certain surviving family members of the deceased victim, or a designated personal representative, to file a wrongful death claim. Under California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60, the following people have a right to file a wrongful death claim against the person or company responsible for the victim’s death:
Spouse – A surviving husband or wife can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. A domestic partner also has the right to file a wrongful death claim. A domestic partnership is two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring. A Declaration of Domestic Partnership must be filed with the Secretary of State for a domestic partnership to be formed.
A “putative spouse” can also file a wrongful death claim. A putative spouse is the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage, who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the deceased victim was valid.
Children – Biological and adopted children can seek financial compensation through a wrongful death claim. Stepchildren who were financially dependent on the deceased victim at the time of death can also seek compensation for their damages.
California allows minors who lived with the decedent for 180 days before his or her death, and were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support, to file a wrongful death case.
Parents – The parents of a minor or adult child who is not survived by a spouse, children, or grandchildren, can seek compensation through a wrongful death case. Parents who were financially dependent on their child also have a right to file a wrongful death claim.
Issue of Deceased Children – Lineal descendants of the deceased victim, such as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, have a right to bring a claim for wrongful death if the decedent’s children pass away prior to the decedent.
Intestate Succession – If the deceased victim does not have any surviving lineal descendants, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. In California, if you die without a will, your assets will go to your closest relatives by intestate succession laws. So, the closest relatives of the decedent can seek compensation if there are no lineal descendants of the decedent.
Common Accidents That Can Lead to a Wrongful Death Case
One of the leading causes of wrongful death in California is auto accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 3,563 deaths from automobile crashes in 2018. There were 896 drivers killed with known blood alcohol concentration levels above .08. Some of the most common incidents that result in wrongful death cases are: Automobile accidents, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; Large commercial vehicle accidents, such as those caused by fatigued truck drivers; Motorcycle accidents, such as reckless drivers; Pedestrian accidents, such as a motor vehicle colliding with a pedestrian Product malfunctions, such as the Takata airbag malfunctions; Fall accidents, especially when from a high altitude; Construction accidents, such as being crushed by heavy machinery; or Medical malpractice, such as a misdiagnosis.
How to Prove a Wrongful Death Case in California
A wrongful death claim in California can arise when the victim’s death was caused by the negligence of another person or entity. The plaintiff must establish the following elements to prove that the victim’s death was caused by negligence of the at fault parties:
The at fault party owed the deceased victim a duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation to use reasonable care to avoid injuring someone else. For example, automobile drivers have a duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner, property owners have a duty to ensure their property is free from dangerous conditions, and businesses have a duty to sell products that are safe to use, and to warn consumers of potential risks.
The at fault party breached their duty of care. A breach of duty occurs when a party fails to use a reasonable standard of care owed to someone else. Examples of breach of duty of care are a truck a driver who falls asleep at the wheel and crashes into a stopped vehicle, or a company who sells a defective boom lift that causes a user to be ejected from the bucket at high altitude.
The at fault party’s breach of duty caused the victim’s death. The surviving family member must show that the at fault party’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing the victim’s death. A substantial factor is a factor that a reasonable person would consider to have contributed to the harm, but does not have to be the only cause of the harm.
A wrongful death claim can also arise when an intentional wrongful act causes the death of another person. Examples of wrongful acts include intentionally hitting someone with your car, shooting someone, or assaulting someone with an object. The plaintiff must establish the following elements to prove that the victim’s death was caused by an intentional act:
- The person intended to commit the act;
- The person made non-consensual contact with the deceased victim; and
- The contact caused the death of the victim.
What Types of Financial Compensation Can Be Paid to Family Members?
A claim for money damages in a wrongful death case include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are objectively verifiable monetary losses. Non-economic damages in a wrongful death case are the family members’ loss of relationship with the deceased victim.
In California, non-economic damages in a wrongful death case do not include the pain and suffering or emotional distress of the decedent, or the grief and sorrow of the plaintiff. Damages in a wrongful death case are only for personal injury to the family members of the victim. Examples of economic and non-economic damages are:
Economic Damages – Financial support the decedent would have contributed to the family; The loss of gifts or benefit that plaintiff expected to receive from the decedent; Funeral and burial expenses; and The reasonable value of household services that the decedent would have provided.
General Damages – Loss of love, companionship, and comfort; Loss of care, assistance, and protection; Loss of affection, society, and moral support; Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations; Loss of decedent’s training and guidance.
A Survival Action is Possible in Addition to a Wrongful Death Claim
A survival action is legal claim that allows the deceased victim’s estate to seek compensation for damages the decedent would have been able to obtain if he or she survived their injuries. Survival actions are permitted only in cases where the decedent lived for a period of time following the incident that ultimately caused his or her death.
Under California Code of Civil Procedure §377.30, survival actions can be filed by a designated personal representative of the decedent’s estate, or if there is none, by the decedent’s successor-in-interest. A designated personal representative can be the “executor” or an “administrator.” An executor is the person named in a will to administer the decedent’s estate. An administrator is appointed to administer the estate when there is no will or executor. A successor-in-interest is the beneficiary of the decedent’s estate via will, trust, or intestacy.
The compensation available in a survival action are the damages the decedent suffered before dying, including medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. In cases of egregious misconduct, the decedent’s estate can also seek punitive damages, which are intended to punish the at fault party and to deter similar future conduct by others. Damages for pain, suffering, and disfigurement cannot be awarded in a survival action.
Fight for Your Right to Compensation with the Support of Skilled Rancho Bernardo Wrongful Death Lawyers
Obtaining money damages following the unexpected death of a loved one is possible by bringing a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties. Wrongful death cases are complex legal matters that can involve a combination of personal injury, trust, and probate and estate issues. After the sudden passing of a family member, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
The wrongful death attorneys at Savage Law in Rancho Bernardo are passionate about obtaining justice and fair compensation for families after the loss of a loved one. Skilled lawyers use the law to your advantage in every aspect of a wrongful death case. You can depend on Savage Law to relentlessly fight to obtain the best outcome for you and your family. Consider contacting the firm today for a no-obligation consultation today.