Wrongful Death

About the Author ()

Ross Jurewitz is the founder and managing lawyer of the Jurewitz Law Group, a San Diego personal injury attorney law firm.

Losing a loved one is never easy but can be made all the more painful and challenging when the death was caused by the reckless behavior of someone else. Accountability brings family members of wrongful death victims the closure they may need as a part of the grieving process and to move on. In such tragic instances, surviving family members may pursue compensation by filing a wrongful death claim or pursing a wrongful death lawsuit.

A Tough Financial Road Ahead

The untimely loss of a loved one unfortunately also brings about significant financial burdens, such as funeral expenses, lost wages, medical bills, and other unexpected economic damages. A wrongful death claim or lawsuit helps a family hold negligent parties legally accountable and may help prevent others from suffering a similar fate. Although no amount of money can ever replace a beloved family member, legal action may also assist a family in getting compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering as well as loss of consortium. In the most extreme of cases, punitive damages may also be awarded to the plaintiff, in which the defendant will be required to pay additional compensation for his or her wrongdoing as a form of punishment.

Overcoming the Obstacles in Your Wrongful Death Case

It is hard to believe that so many forms of negligence can lead to a catastrophic injury or death. From distracted driving in an auto accident, motorcycle crash, truck collision, or boat accident to a design flaw or manufacturing defect in a dangerous product, it only takes a second of oversight for life to never be the same. Proving fault in a wrongful death case is an intricate process. In many instances, accident reconstruction, medical experts, witness testimony, and effective strategies must all be implemented and presented properly.

One major challenge of wrongful death claims is that they are an investment of time and energy. A case may take two or more years to resolve; however, if the case is never pursued to begin with, a family may miss their chance for justice. It is important to remember that the choice to take legal action is a serious one. No one can make you and your family file a claim or pursue a lawsuit if that’s not what you choose to do. Nevertheless, making an informed decision based on reliable legal information regarding your rights and options is critical. The last thing anyone wants is to regret having not known what could have been.

Wrongful Death Claim FAQ’s

Q. What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A. In order to have a valid wrongful death claim after any type of fatal accident, the following circumstances must apply:

  • A person was killed,
  • The death occurred as a result of someone else’s negligent actions or intentional wrongdoing, and
  • The surviving family has suffered financial loss as a result of the death.

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit in which the surviving family may seek monetary compensation from the party that caused the fatal accident. Contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to determine whether you have a legitimate claim.

Q. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

A. In California, only the victim’s spouse, domestic partner or children may file a claim. If none of these individuals exist, the parents, siblings or grandparents of the victim may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This right may extend to other individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased, such as children of the deceased siblings.

You may have to prove your relationship to the deceased with a marriage license, birth certificate or other records. Speak with an attorney to learn more.

Q. What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death auto accidents?

A. Under California Code of Civil Procedure, § 335.1, the surviving family has two years from the date of the victim’s death to pursue legal action. It is crucial to seek rightful compensation sooner rather than later in order to avoid missing the allotted time. Failure to file within the limited time period may result in forfeiting your right to make a claim altogether.

In some cases, there may be extenuating circumstances in which the cause of the fatal accident was not determined until a year or more after the incident. If the cause of the accident is proven within one year of the death, the surviving family will still have two years from the date of the determined cause of death in which to file.

Q. What Damages are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Suit?

A. Wrongful death claims allow surviving family members to ask for compensation for economic and non-economic damages related to the fatal accident. These include:

  • Medical costs
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Grief and loss of companionship

In some cases, if the negligent party violated any laws or caused the fatal accident by acting with extreme carelessness, the court may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for his or her wrongful actions.

The amount of damages awarded in a wrongful death auto accident will depend on the financial losses you have suffered and the court will evaluate the unique circumstances when determining the non-economic losses.

Q. Why Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

A. While it is entirely possible to take legal action on your own, it is in your best interests, especially while grieving, to entrust your claim to a respected lawyer. The evidence you need to support your case may deteriorate over time and an attorney will be able to investigate your case immediately to gather evidence, such as photographs of the scene of the fatal car crash, police reports, medical records, forensic specialist and accident reconstruction reports. These are just some of the ways in which a lawyer can be an invaluable asset to your claim case.

Q. How Much Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Cost?

A. Injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. That means that they do not charge our clients a dime until they have made a successful recovery on their behalf. They take a percentage of the final settlement. This ensures that they do not accept any cases that they do not believe they can win.