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The preventable death of a loved one can be a shattering, traumatic experience. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit may seem selfish or irrelevant – after all, says conventional wisdom, money won’t bring back your loved one.
Our Orange County wrongful death attorneys understand that to be considered a wrongful death, the death must have been partially or completely preventable. The prosecution must prove the defendant committed reckless, negligent or intentional action.
Frequently Asked Questions
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Orange County
What is Wrongful Death?
Who Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Victim?
Damages You Can Recover
Statute of Limitations
How Can an Attorney Help With My Case?
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
In large, metropolitan areas like Orange County, negligent actions that lead to wrongful death – tragically – happen very often.
Here are some of the common causes of wrongful death in Orange County:
- Motorcycle, auto, bicycle or truck accidents
- Murder and other intentional acts
- Slips and falls
- Poisoning or defective products (may often lead to a recall of said product)
- Work-related accidents such as construction jobs
Orange County Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death lawsuit is brought against a negligent party by the family of a deceased person. Wrongful death suits can be raised from careless acts like a car accident that results in a death or an intentional one like murder.
California law regarding wrongful death is straightforward: if a family member or loved one has died as a result of someone else’s wrongful act, the victim’s family is allowed to file a lawsuit that seeks compensation for death-related expenses.
Additionally, California law allows the victim’s relatives to sue for their own damages, especially if they were financially or emotionally dependent on the victim. In this case, an injury to the victim is also perceived as an injury to the victim’s spouse, children, or other family members. Damages are calculated based on what might have occurred in the future, such as an estimate of the lifelong earnings of the victim. These calculations require the expert services of a certified economist. The law also allows the victim’s family to recover damages for the loss of “care, comfort and society” due to the deceased person’s absence. Information regarding the wrongful death statute of limitations can be found here.
If you are looking for immediate help or answers about a claim for wrongful death damages, call our accomplished, trustworthy and experienced team of Orange County wrongful death lawyers.
At Panish, Shea and Boyle, we understand that anyone who brings a wrongful death suit is going through an incredibly difficult time. Our experienced team of attorneys gives you the personal attention and sensitivity you need while you still may be grieving. We make the process as easy as possible as we help you navigate the legal system. While the monetary damages from a wrongful death suit won’t bring the victim back, they can be used to ease the burden on the victim’s loved ones and set their – and your – lives back on track.
A wrongful death suit can seek compensation for medical and funeral bills, emotional pain and suffering caused by the death, and loss of financial support. While it may seem daunting to face a legal battle at this time, an experienced and thoughtful wrongful death attorney in Orange County can help secure the money and closure you need to move forward.
What Is Wrongful Death?
In the state of California, you can file a wrongful death claim when someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence. Many circumstances can lead to wrongful death, such as medical malpractice, workplace accidents, and criminal activity. To successfully file a wrongful death claim, you (or your lawyer) must prove that the following conditions occurred.
- A person died.
- Someone caused this person’s death through an act of negligence or an intent to cause the deceased harm.
- The surviving family members of the deceased suffered monetary damages as a result of the death.
- A court-appointed personal representative files the wrongful death claim on behalf of the family members.
Who Qualifies as a Victim in Wrongful Death Claims?
California law defines a wrongful death as someone who dies as a result of the wrongful act or negligence of another person. For example, medical malpractice is a form of wrongful death because you can prove that inadequate medical care is a form of negligence and you can tie the negligence to the cause of death. However, you must prove that the deceased person’s chance of survival was 51% or higher prior to the malpractice. An Irvine wrongful death attorney can help you determine if you have a valid case against a negligent party.
Under California law, the death of a fetus or unborn child cannot be a part of a wrongful death lawsuit on its own. The California Supreme Court does not define a fetus as a human being until a live birth occurs. However, if a pregnant person dies in a wrongful death case, you could claim damages for the loss of the unborn child.
If the deceased person died as a result of justifiable homicide, you cannot bring a wrongful death claim against the person who caused the death. A deceased person killed while committing a felony, such as murder or sexual assault, cannot be the subject of a wrongful death action.
However, you could hold someone liable for the death of a loved one by suicide – under certain circumstances. If the at-fault party owed a duty of care to the victim, such as a doctor, you can hold him or her liable for the suicide if he or she contributed to the act in some way. For example, if a doctor failed to take a threat of suicide seriously or committed an act that led to suicide, you can hold him or her liable.
How to Prove Liability in an Orange County Wrongful Death Case
To prove a case of wrongful death in California, you and your attorney will need to satisfy four elements to prove liability. Simply put, wrongful death claims must involve a duty of care to the deceased person that the at-fault party breached, leading to the death and its subsequent damages.
- First, you will need to prove that the at-fault party owed a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, a doctor who was treating a patient owed a duty of care to provide a certain level of medical service. A driver on the road has a duty of care to other drivers to operate his or her vehicle in a safe manner.
- Next, you will need to prove that the at-fault party breached the duty of care that he or she owed to the deceased person. For example, you can prove that the deceased person’s doctor misdiagnosed him or her in a way that a similarly trained and educated doctor would not. You can prove that a driver failed to stop at a red light, breaking traffic laws.
- Then, you need to prove that the breach of the duty of care directly led to the injuries that the deceased person suffered. For a doctor who misdiagnosed, you can prove that the deceased person suffered from a worsening injury or illness that another doctor could have remedied and that the illness led to his or her death. You can also prove that a driver who ran the red light crashed into the deceased person’s vehicle, leading to the injuries that led to his or her death.
- Finally, you will need to connect the injuries of the breach of duty of care to the damages you are claiming in the lawsuit. You can claim numerous damages in wrongful death claims, including pain and suffering by the deceased and any final medical expenses. Your Irvine wrongful death lawyer can help you assemble the necessary evidence to prove these damages.
What Damages Can You Collect in a Wrongful Death Claim?
You can claim a number of damages in wrongful death claims, including many that you can also claim in personal injury lawsuits. The amount of damages you can claim will depend on the circumstances of your case. In wrongful death claims, the damages can compensate the deceased’s estate for the losses associated with his or her death or compensate the family members for the losses that they suffered because of the death.
Estate losses for the deceased can include the following tangible, monetary losses.
- Lost income, including the potential income that the deceased could have earned if he or she lived
- Funeral and burial expenses, up to a reasonable amount
- Medical and hospital expenses for the final illness and injuries associated with the death
Family members can claim different types of damages in wrongful death claims. These damages are usually intangible and related to pain and suffering.
- Loss of future financial support
- The value of the loss of household services
- Loss of love
- Loss of affection
- Loss of community
- Loss of moral support
- Loss of guidance
Determining the exact value of your damages in a wrongful death claim can be a challenge without an attorney on your side. Your Orange County wrongful death attorney from Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP can assist you in calculating your damages, collecting proper documentation to argue your claim in court, and connecting you with financial experts to help calculate your ideal settlement amount.
The Statute of Limitations for California Wrongful Death Claims
Under California law, you need to adhere to the statute of limitations to file your wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations sets a time limit on when you can file your wrongful death lawsuit. If you do not file your claim within this time frame, the court can refuse to hear your case. Different types of wrongful death claims involve different statutes of limitations. In the majority of cases involving wrongful death, you have two years from the date of death to file your claim. If your case involves a government entity, such as a municipal agency or a state government, you may have a shorter statute of limitations. Contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options and file your claim as soon as possible.
How Can an Attorney Help Your Wrongful Death Claim?
If you are filing a wrongful death claim in California, hiring an attorney from Panish Shea & Boyle, LLP can significantly benefit your case. Your attorney can help launch an investigation into the circumstances of the death, giving you access to experts and resources you may not otherwise be able to use. We know how to litigate wrongful death claims in Irvine and throughout Orange County, and can adapt our strategies to your case, as well as prepare you for the courtroom. With an Orange County wrongful death lawyer, you can reduce your stress and allow our attorneys to handle the lawsuit process for you from consultation to settlement.
Panish Shea & Boyle Gets Results
Our law firm has successfully obtained compensation for a number of families affected by a wrongful death. Partner Brian Panish won a $25.5 million jury verdict for the relatives of a family of three that were killed by a drunk driver. Panish worked with partner Kevin Boyle to recover $2.8 million for the elderly parents of a 48-year old man killed in a collision between a freight train and a commuter train.
If you are interested in a consultation about wrongful death or a possible lawsuit, contact our experienced team of wrongful death attorneys in Orange County today. Let the experience and knowledge of our personal injury attorneys carry you and your family through this difficult time and get you the compensation that will allow you to move forward. We represent clients in Irvine, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange County and throughout Southern California.