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What Counts as a Wrongful Death in California?

Losing a loved one is incredibly painful. If it happens because of natural causes, it’s hard enough, but if it happens as a result of someone else’s negligence – whether or not it was intentional – the situation becomes much more difficult. A loved one may have died young, years before it would have been a more realistic time for them to pass away.  Even one day too soon is unacceptable.

If you have lost a loved one and you believe it may qualify as a wrongful death, then it’s time to immediately contact a wrongful death lawyer who can help you.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is just as it sounds: a death caused by negligence or other wrongful conduct by another person, thing, or entity. If you are a family member of the person who passed away, then you could possibly file a wrongful death claim against the defendant(s) that caused your loved one’s death. Another way to understand the basis is that, if your loved one was alive and was only injured by the defendant, then he or she could file a personal injury claim. A wrongful death claim is a claim by those left behind.

The rules regarding who can make such a claim vary from state to state; but you certainly may make a claim against the defendant if you are the deceased person’s spouse or child. In California, under certain circumstances, you can also sue if you are the domestic partner of the deceased person, or if you were financially dependent on the deceased and specific relationships existed.  If you are suffering from the loss, economically and/or emotionally, explore your rights with an attorney right away.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

In order to prove wrongful death, we need to show that the defendant had a duty of care, they did not uphold this duty and the breach of duty directly caused or contributed to your loved one’s death.

Any wrongful death claim would need to be investigated to prove that it’s valid. Evidence, is necessary to support any case. This may include:

  • Witness statements
  • Photographs of the scene of the accident
  • Medical records
  • Police records
  • Expert analysis

Experts may be necessary. In many types of product failures, construction accidents, medical malpractice, and other areas, it is likely expert witnesses who work in the field may be necessary to analyze and help the court/jury understand why the defendant(s) should be held responsible for the wrongful death.

Examples of Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death could apply in a number of different cases.

For example, let’s say your loved one slipped and fell on a wet floor in a store. They hit their head so hard that it caused them to pass away. If the shop owner did not put up a wet floor sign or take other precautions to keep customers safe, then they could potentially be held responsible for your loved one’s death.

If your loved one was working in a dangerous environment, like a construction site, and a piece of equipment fell on them or the property safety protocols were not in place, or they fell due to a faulty scaffold, or they were killed due to a faulty product, or they were electrocuted due to faulty wiring, etc., then this could possibly count as a wrongful death lawsuit as well.

A type of wrongful death case that comes up often involves automobile accidents. If a driver was using their cell phone while behind the wheel, driving while intoxicated, speeding or otherwise not obeying the traffic laws, or they were simply inattentive when they killed your loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit may be in order.

It all depends on analysis by an experienced wrongful death lawyer. They will have the legal knowledge to determine what kind of claim to pursue so that you have the best possible chance of winning and receiving loss of emotional and financial support.

What Could You Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Both economic and noneconomic damages are recoverable. Economic damages include:

  • Loss of financial support
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses

Noneconomic damages would include:

  • The loss of care, comfort and counsel suffered due to the passing
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Loss of nurturing and guidance

Finding a Wrongful Death Lawyer

If this has happened to you, we are very sorry for your loss.  You need to focus on your emotional, physical and mental health. A loved one just passed away. You need to keep your family together and take care of tying up loose ends. You probably don’t have the time or energy to also get into a lawsuit. Instead, reach out to an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help.

Your lawyer will be able to let you know if they think you have a chance at winning a lawsuit and getting the compensation you deserve for your loved one’s death.  They can follow-up and, if necessary, file a lawsuit and negotiate a possible settlement with the defendant’s lawyers, or take the case through trial.

You just have to keep in mind that in California, there is a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s always better to engage an attorney as quickly as possible. If you have a lawyer with extensive experience, they will be able to move everything along for you so that you don’t have to worry about how your claim is going.

Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you’re ready to pursue a wrongful death claim, then call the attorneys at Heiting & Irwin at 951-682-6400, or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation as soon as possible. We can talk with you about the facts of your wrongful death case and get you the compensation you deserve.

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Mr. Serrano has been admitted to practice before California State and Federal Courts. He was named to the Super Lawyers’ 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Southern California Rising Stars List, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California each year. View Attorney Jean-Simon Serrano's Attorney Bio Here.

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