Upland Wrongful Death Attorney
Reliable Legal Representation for Families of Fatal Accident Victims
If you choose to pursue legal action against any individual or other legal entity that directly contributed to the cause of your loved one’s death, you’ll need legal advocates on your side who are knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate so that you can benefit from a strong and effective approach to representation without sacrificing the expectation that you and the memory of your loved one will be treated with respect. Similarly, you will need legal advocates who have a time-tested approach that is both efficient and effective so that you do not experience any undue delays in your legal process or in receiving compensation for your losses. You will find all of these benefits and more in our firm’s approach to client-focused representation.
There is nothing that we take more seriously than representing the interests of families who have lost loved ones due to another’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous actions or inactions. Our firm has developed a reputation for quality legal services and excellent client care because we genuinely believe that there are few higher callings than representing those whose rights have been infringed upon and who have suffered loss as a result of that infringement.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is distinct from a survival action claim. Both claims may be filed by a representative of a deceased injury victim’s estate or the injury victim’s eligible surviving loved ones. Wrongful death claims help to hold responsible parties accountable for the financial consequences associated with the preventable loss of someone’s life. They progress much in the same ways that non-fatal personal injury claims do. In fact, the best way to determine whether surviving loved ones have cause to file legal action involves proving that the fatal injury victim would have had solid grounds to file a general personal injury case on their own behalf had they survived their injuries.
For a wrongful death claim to be successful, it must be proven that the named defendant owed the injury victim a duty of care under the law. In auto accident cases, this duty of care is usually quite straightforward as everyone who operates a motor vehicle is bound by law to operate those vehicles safely. It must next be proven that the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentionally dangerous actions or inactions directly caused the victim’s injuries. Finally, it must be proven that the victim’s death was caused by the injuries sustained as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty to the victim. This is a complex set of legal standards. Trust that we’ll explain exactly how these fundamental personal injury criteria apply to your unique situation when you attend a free consultation at our office.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
According to California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60, there are several closely-related loved ones and dependents who are eligible to file a wrongful death action (and a survivor action, if applicable) in addition to or instead of a personal representative of a deceased injury victim’s estate. These eligible parties include:
- A surviving spouse
- A surviving domestic partner
- Surviving children of the injury victim
- If the injury victim had a child or children who predeceased them, that child’s (or children’s) children
- The parents or legal guardians of the injury victim, including the parents of minors – under specific circumstances
- Other eligible dependents of the injury victim, including some non-related minors – under specific circumstances
Note that these eligible parties are also eligible to file survival actions in applicable situations.
What Is a Survival Action?
Wrongful death claims compensate surviving loved ones for the financial costs they’ve incurred as a result of their loss. Damages awarded in a wrongful death action generally include burial and funeral costs, medical costs associated with care of the deceased’s injuries, lost earning potential, loss of companionship, etc. By contrast, a survival action compensates for any conscious pain, suffering, and apprehension of impending death suffered by the deceased before they passed away as a result of their injuries. The degree to which the victim was conscious, the severity of the pain they experienced, and the length of time they experienced suffering related to their injuries before passing away are all factored into the damage awards for survival actions. Generally, wrongful death claims and survival actions are filed at the same time so that they can be argued simultaneously as parts of a single overall case.
Comparative Negligence – Causation and Fault for Your Loved One’s Accident
If you are concerned about filing a wrongful death and/or survival action successfully because your loved one may have been partially responsible for the circumstances that led to their injuries, please avoid making any assumptions about the possible strengths and weaknesses of your legal situation until you’ve spoken with our dedicated and determined legal team. California honors a comparative theory of negligence. If state law upheld a contributory approach to negligence, you might be barred from seeking compensation if your loved one was at-all responsible for the cause(s) of their injuries. However, California’s comparative approach allows eligible surviving loved ones to seek damages even if their loved one in part contributed to their injurious circumstances.
On a practical level, if your loved one is assigned a percentage of fault for their accident, the damage award available will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to your loved one. For example, if your wrongful death case is valued at $1,000,000 and it is determined that your loved one was 10 percent at fault for the accident in question, the damage award available would be reduced to $900,000. In short, don’t avoid exploring your legal options because you are concerned about issues of partial fault. Because you are filing legal action in California, you remain entitled to seek significant compensation from any other parties directly responsible (although partially so) for your loved one’s injuries.
Wrongful Death Claims – Timing Issues
California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 335.1 grants eligible surviving loved ones and estate representatives two years from the date upon which the deceased lost their life to file a wrongful death action. However, it’s important to note that there are some exceptions to this general rule made in situations involving delayed notification or knowledge of an individual’s death. Two years may seem like a long time. However, grief can do strange things to an individual’s perception of the ways in which time passes. Don’t put off exploring your legal options, as two years can fly by and you may find yourself barred from seeking financial recovery for your loss. Additionally, if you are eligible to file for workers’ compensation death benefits, you’ll need to do so sooner rather than later, as this process is more time-sensitive than the wrongful death claims process is.
It’s also important to note that waiting to explore your legal options may compromise the value and strength of your case as evidence may become lost, damaged, or otherwise compromised over time. Finally, the financial consequences of your loss may begin to become unmanageable as weeks and months pass. It will take time for our firm to resolve all elements of your case. Don’t wait until bill collectors are harassing you and you’re suffering from financial stress to seek compensation related to your loss. That is the very last thing that you and your family deserve after navigating the preventable and tragic loss that you’ve already suffered.
Considerations for Loved Ones Lost Due to Work-Related Hazards
If your loved one was injured or made ill due to an accident in the workplace, unsafe working conditions, or other work-related harm, eligible surviving dependents may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits paid in installments over time. Unless you are very wealthy, you’ll likely find the compensation amounts available through this system to be fairly significant. It is, therefore, worth speaking with us about this potential opportunity as soon as you can if your loved one died due to work-related harm and they were eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits at the time of their death.
Civil vs. Criminal Liability for Wrongful Death
If your loved one died as a result of another’s criminal actions, you may have been told that you’re eligible for crime victim compensation. This opportunity is distinct from holding those responsible for causing your loved one’s death liable in civil court. Additionally, filing a personal injury suit is a distinct process from any criminal case(s) that may have been filed against those responsible for causing your loved one harm. In short, you can still benefit from speaking with a wrongful death attorney about seeking compensation through the civil justice system, even if criminal charges have been brought against those responsible and/or you have been granted access to crime victim compensation resources.
Scheduling a consultation to explore your legal options in the wake of your family’s loss is a brave step forward. Unless the statutes of limitations connected to your legal options have nearly run their course, you likely won’t need to make any big decisions related to your legal situation right now if you don’t feel ready to do so. However, if you wait too long to seek guidance, the value of your case could be compromised and you could suffer significant financial consequences. Please allow us to assist you with this first, important step forward in a confidential, no-obligation, free consultation setting. It will be our great honor to speak with you.