Wrongful Death Attorneys in Orange County & Riverside
When a death occurs due to the negligence of another person or entity, the survivors of the deceased could be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to compensate them for the financial losses suffered as a result of the death of their loved one. The potential compensation includes lost wages from the deceased, funeral expenses, and even lost companionship, or, in the case of children, lost guidance and support from a parent. The right to bring a wrongful death claim is a relatively new concept, as the laws brought to America from England (common law) did not allow a wrongful death claim. New York was the first state to make it possible for family members to file a claim for wrongful death, and California soon followed suit. Eventually, all 50 states realized the wisdom in allowing loved ones to receive compensation when a family member—particularly one who was also the primary breadwinner—was killed through another’s negligence.
A wrongful death could result from a car accident (or motorcycle, truck, bicycle or pedestrian accident), a dangerous drug or medical device, an unsafe or defective product, medical malpractice or an accident at work. Persons, companies, and governmental agencies could all be found to be legally at fault when they act in a negligent manner or act in an intentional, unsafe manner. Essentially, negligence occurs when a person fails to act in the same manner as another reasonable person would have done under the same circumstances. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the majority of all lawsuits involving medical malpractice also involve a wrongful death or a permanent disability caused by negligence. Medical malpractice negligence often involves prescription errors—prescribing a wrong medication, or a wrong dosage—as well as wrong or delayed diagnoses and surgical errors.
At Greenberg & Greenberg, we have experience advocating for families who are suffering both emotionally and financially following the wrongful death of a loved one. We are here, to make sure your voice is heard and to be by your side every step of the way.
How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Differs from a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In a personal injury case, the requested compensation is based on the needs of the victim. In other words, the amount being sought will depend on the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering, while in a wrongful death lawsuit it will be the needs of the victim’s family in question. Wrongful death compensation is intended to help heal—on a financial level—the devastation caused to the family by the sudden, unexpected loss of their loved one, allowing the rebuilding of lives.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
Family members who are considering filing a wrongful death suit after their loved one was killed in an accident due to negligence should remember that prompt action is essential. There are time limits known as the statute of limitations which allow a narrow window of time in which the plaintiffs must bring suit or lose their right to seek recovery. The purpose of the statute of limitations law is to allow the plaintiff sufficient time to hire an attorney while also giving the defendant some sort of assurance that after a specific length of time they are free from the threat of a lawsuit.
In some instances, the statute of limitations could be as little as six months—in the case of a governmental agency causing the injury—or two to three years in some states. In the state of California, there can potentially be three different statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim. In most cases, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death in California is two years from the time of death. If the wrongful death claim involves medical malpractice, the statute of limitations in California is three years from the date of the injury, and if the wrongful death claim is based on government tort liability, the claim must be filed within six months.
What Are Wrongful Death Awards Based On?
Of course, economic loss is the primary factor in a wrongful death award, and takes into consideration the loss of future wages the deceased would have earned, burial and funeral expenses and even loss of inheritance. Non-economic losses such as loss of companionship or grief due to the death can also be factored into the overall compensation. Survival-related damages, such as mental suffering requiring ongoing counseling will also be considered in a wrongful death claim. In some cases, punitive damages could also be awarded. Punitive damages are considered as a kind of financial punishment for willful or malicious negligence, and are meant to deter similar behavior in the future.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in the State of California?
States vary regarding who is able to file a wrongful death claim. In the state of California, a surviving spouse, a surviving domestic partner and surviving children are all eligible to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased had no spouse, partner or children, his or her parents or siblings could potentially file a wrongful death claim. Additionally, any person who can definitively prove he or she was financially dependent on the deceased (stepchildren, a putative spouse, etc.) may be able to file a California wrongful death claim. Although any one of the above parties could qualify to file a wrongful death claim, only one wrongful death lawsuit can be brought against a defendant.
This means that if more than one individual intends to file a wrongful death claim, they must either agree to file jointly, or could be barred from filing at all. This is known as the California “one action rule,” which is intended to keep the defendant from having to defend more than one wrongful death lawsuit, as well as to avoid inconsistent results which might occur if more than one action was instigated. This means that heirs who file a wrongful death claim have a responsibility to include all known heirs—if any heirs are intentionally omitted, the claimant could be held responsible.
How a Greenberg & Greenberg Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
As a former senior homicide prosecutor, lead Greenberg & Greenberg personal injury attorney, Elan Zektser knows how tragic it can be when a loved one is unexpectedly taken. Elan Zektser has vigorously represented and advocated for victims of a wrongful death. At Greenberg & Greenberg, we have vast experience handling a wide variety of wrongful death claims, including:
- Wrongful death due to drunk driving accidents;
- Wrongful death due to hit and run accidents;
- Wrongful death due to car accidents;
- Wrongful death due to motorcycle accidents;
- Wrongful death due to truck accidents;
- Wrongful death due to pedestrian accidents;
- Wrongful death due to medical malpractice;
- Wrongful death due to rideshare accidents, and
- Wrongful death due to a trip, slip, and or fall accident.
Hiring a wrongful death attorney at this juncture may be the single most important act family members can make following the death of a loved one due to negligence. Families need time to heal without having to personally deal with a lawsuit, and a Greenberg & Greenberg wrongful death attorney can help remove the burdens associated with such a claim. Your experienced wrongful death attorney will likely first attempt to settle the case out of court, obtaining an equitable settlement through negotiation, however, if the defendants do not wish to pay a fair amount, the attorney may then set a wrongful death claim in motion.
This legal wrongful death claim will clearly list the reasons the defendant is being sued as well as noting California laws which support such claims. The complaint will also state the amount of money the plaintiff is seeking as compensation. At any time up until the trial, the defendant may offer a reasonable settlement to avoid a trial. When you pursue a lawsuit against a billion-dollar insurance company, you need a highly experienced, aggressive, qualified advocate. Contact Greenberg & Greenberg today for a free consultation with attorneys in the field of wrongful death.