When a loved one dies due to another’s negligence or misconduct, it is referred to as wrongful death, and the surviving family members may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. There are guidelines in place that must be satisfied for this to occur. Let us look at the elements of wrongful death, the different ways it can happen, and the monetary damages the family suffers.
The law firm of David Azizi supplies the compassionate care a family needs in the difficult days following a family member’s death. For many, the risk of being unable to manage funeral costs or household expenses is challenging. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity that caused a loved one’s death does not reduce the grief the family feels; however, it does reduce the family’s financial stress.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Los Angeles?
Under California State Law 377.60, the following surviving family members who were dependent on the decedent can file for damages:
- The decedent’s spouse
- The decedent’s registered domestic partner
- Children of the deceased person
- Grandchildren if the decedent’s children have died
- Putative spouse if dependent on the decedent (a putative spouse is one who believes that they were legally married to the decedent despite legal impediments to the marriage)
- Children of the putative spouse
- Stepchildren of the decedent
- A minor who resided in the decedent’s household for six months and was dependent on the decedent for 50 percent of his or her support
Causes of a Wrongful Death
There are many circumstances where a wrongful death can occur. They include car, bus or truck accidents, medical malpractice, defective products or premises liability and government negligence, to name a few.
A wrongful death claim can be filed after a violent criminal act such as murder. A famous example is the wrongful death lawsuit filed against O.J. Simpson. It was filed against Simpson by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The claim for $25 million in punitive damages and $8.5 million in compensatory damages was allowed even though Simpson was found not guilty of the charges.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Just as claimants in a personal injury case must meet the burden of proof, the following elements must exist to claim wrongful death:
- A human being died due to another person’s action or lack of taking precautionary measures.
- There must be proof of negligence or intentional harm.
- The proper hierarchy of surviving family members who suffer financial harm due to the loss of their loved one must exist.
- Proof the person’s demise resulted in the damages sought by the family members is needed.
Wrongful Death Claim Damages
The following are a list of damages the family may be entitled to collect:
- End-of-life expenses such as funeral and burial costs are part of a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Medical costs incurred after the accident and before the person’s death can be collected in a survivor action.
- Loss of other income, which can include bonuses the decedent might have received and retirement accounts and insurance policies that grow over time, is included. For instance, permanent life insurance has a death benefit paid when the person dies and a cash value that increases over the years.
- Loss of inheritance children may have received from a parent may be claimed.
- Loss of monetary support the family would have received had the person not died is recoverable.
- Household services the individual provided that must be paid for after their death are part of the claim.
- Loss of the companionship and love the deceased gave to the family are included.
- The loss of nurturing and guidance, once given by the decedent, can be claimed.
A survivor action is one that claims the damages the person experienced before death. It is called a survivor action because the damages survived the person’s demise. It compensates for the decedent’s injury and not the family’s, as described in a wrongful death claim. One big difference is that the estate can file for punitive damages in a survivor action, unlike a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages are those meant to punish the defendant for egregious harm.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In California, the amount of time you must file a wrongful death claim is two years. This is called the statute of limitations and differs from one state to another. It begins with the date the person died and continues until the two years have ended.
The statute of limitations for a survivor action is slightly more complicated. It is two years from the time the decedent was first injured or six months from the time of death, depending on which one is longest.
If the claim is against a government entity, such as an agency in charge of road maintenance, the time limit changes. Here, the person must file an administrative claim against the city or state within six months from the time the accident happened. The government has 45 days to either accept or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, the family has six months to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Alternately, if the government fails to answer, the family will have two years to file.
Investigating a Wrongful Death
It is necessary to prove that negligence of some sort, depending on the case, caused the death of the decedent. This means that the reason for the person’s death must be thoroughly examined. If the person died due to an automobile accident, checking for clues at the crash site is essential. Alternatively, if the person died due to faulty care by a doctor or hospital, reviewing charts or office notes is needed to prove substandard care. Your wrongful death lawyer will discuss the different types of wrongful death lawsuits during the initial case review if you feel your loved one’s demise was caused by another person’s or entity’s negligence.
Free Case Review with a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Law Firm
David Azizi understands the grief family members face after a loved one’s death. He empathizes with the raw emotions they feel and their fears going forward in life without the decedent. That is why he does everything possible to hold the at-fault party responsible for their loss—helping the family find justice for their loved one’s death.
David is a strong and diligent legal representative for a family facing one of the most challenging situations that will befall them. According to Super Lawyers, a well-known legal ranking organization, these attributes make him one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.
Call David at (800) 991-5292, and schedule a free case review. David will do what needs to be done to right the wrong and bring your family a sense of security, giving you the time to mourn your loss. You can also reach David online.