When Should You Sue for Wrongful Death?

When Should You Sue for Wrongful Death?

Losing a family member unexpectedly is absolutely devastating no matter the circumstances. When you lose a family member due to the negligence or wrongful act of an entity or another person, it can be especially tragic and can leave you wondering what to do next. In California, you generally have two choices: a survival action and a wrongful death action.  A survival action means that a court-appointed representative, on behalf of your deceased family member’s estate, can file an action to recover monetary compensation for damages that the deceased family member could have claimed had he or she lived.  However, these damages are generally limited to those experienced by the deceased family member before death, such as medical bills incurred and loss of earnings, and do not include pain and suffering, e.g., pain, grief, emotional distress, humiliation, and embarrassment. In addition to a survival action, a wrongful death action may be brought by those persons who qualify under California law to recover monetary compensation for the loss of the deceased family member’s love, care, comfort and society as well as loss of future monetary support.

Under California law, the following list of persons, based on the person’s relationship with the decedent, may be entitled to bring a wrongful death action.  They each may bring their own suit or be represented by a personal representative of the deceased family member’s estate depending on the circumstances.  However, whether each person below has the right to bring a claim or action depends on other various factors and circumstances that require a thorough legal analysis:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children
  • Issue of deceased children
  • If there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons who would be entitled to the decedent’s property by intestate succession
  • If the parents of the decedent would be entitled to bring an action and they are deceased, then the legal guardians of the decedent, if any, may bring an action as if they were the decedent’s parents
  • If dependent on the decedent
    • the putative spouse
    • children of the putative spouse
    • stepchildren
    • parents
    • the legal guardians of the decedent if the parents are deceased

The first and most important thing to know is that there are strict time limits within which a wrongful death claim and/or survival action must be filed depending on a myriad of circumstances. If the claim is not filed in a timely manner, then you may completely lose your right to obtain financial compensation from the responsible party or parties. But there are some exceptions. These claims and actions can get complicated very quickly and a variety of different laws can apply to your particular matter so it is best to consult with someone who has experience handling wrongful death cases.

But how can you tell if your loved one’s death was potentially a wrongful death? Just two unfortunately common examples of wrongful death include:

Medical Malpractice

If a doctor failed to diagnose your loved one’s condition and that failure caused them to die, or a doctor acted negligently with regard to the care they provided to your loved one which resulted in their death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. The claim can be filed against the doctor and any other medical care providers or facilities that were involved.

Car Accidents

If your loved one was killed in a car accident by an at-fault driver who behaved negligently and/or recklessly, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Drivers who operate their vehicles while intoxicated or while distracted, who fail to obey traffic laws, or drive recklessly can quickly cause severe auto accidents that can be fatal. It is your right to file a wrongful death claim against the other driver or drivers whose actions caused the death of your loved one.

Workplace Accidents

When a family loses a loved one in a work-related accident, workers’ compensation may come into play, but that does not mean that a civil lawsuit is off the table. If your loved one was killed on the job, you should speak with a lawyer about the facts of your individual situation to see how best to move forward legally so you can heal emotionally with less worry.

For a wrongful death claim to be valid, several elements must be present, including:

  • A person has died.
  • The victim’s death was caused by a person or entity’s negligence or intent to harm the victim.
  • The surviving family members suffered monetary injuries related to the death of the victim.

Meeting the burden of proof in a wrongful death claim can be complicated and will require an experienced wrongful death attorney to gather evidence that can prove the elements of the claim. Even though a wrongful death claim is similar to a personal injury claim, there are many more factors involved that make the matter much more complex and it will require the knowledge and experience of an experienced attorney.

California Wrongful Death Attorneys

If your loved one was killed due to the misconduct or negligence of a company or individual, contact our office today. Our caring and experienced wrongful death attorneys understand that our work cannot heal the wounds caused by the sudden, unexpected, and often completely preventable death of your loved one, but we can help you hold the responsible party or parties accountable and provide compensation to give your family a stronger financial foundation with which to move forward. If you believe someone else’s actions were the cause of your loved one’s death, contact Curtis Legal Group today at 1-800-LAW-3080.