The California Wrongful Death Guide was created by our attorneys to help residents who have lost a loved one or family member due to someone else’s negligence. Contact our office for a free consultation.
If you have lost a loved one to wrongful death, you may be feeling a kind of grief few people can relate to. This is a terrible thing for a family to have to endure, and you don’t have to suffer by yourself. We want to say just how very sadden we are by these cases and we hope to help you on the way to recovering the damages you and your family are entitled to.
We are a full-time practice dedicated to helping you to seek the compensation you may need to carry on. You will only have to pay us when we win, as we work on a contingency basis. We don’t want you to go with a lawyer who is going to push you through the mill to get your case done. We will show you the support and guidance needed to be successful in this case.
Types of Wrongful Death Claim Types
Wrongful death claims include many different types of accidents and injury-related deaths. The claim may vary slightly in terms of logistics and evidence collection depending on how your loved one passed. Here are the examples of possible wrongful death accidents:
- Medical malpractice
- Auto accidents
- Nursing home negligence
- Construction accidents
- Criminal activity
- Premises liability
- Product liability
If your loved one passed due to any of these accidents, you may be eligible for compensation. If you lost someone from an accident that is not listed here, please call and schedule a consultation to see if you and your family can pursue a wrongful death claim.
Why You Need an Attorney
In wrongful death cases, it is a lot harder to bring the claim properly. It’s not the same as an injury case where someone gets hurt in an accident, then brings the claim against the negligent party’s insurance. For wrongful death, your loved one has passed and someone needs to bring the claim for them on the negligent party’s insurance. If it is done incorrectly, the insurance company can throw away the claim. This is where having an experienced attorney can save your claim for you. They will know exactly who can bring the claim.
Something you might not already be aware of is the statute of limitations in California. In most cases, you or the claimant will have two years from the date of the injury that caused the death of your loved one or the date of their death to get the claim brought. The finer details will have to be sorted out by your attorney. There are exceptions to this rule. If the accident is involving, for example, a government entity, your statute of limitations may be a lot shorter. Your attorney will make sure that everything is done well before this time limitation. You don’t want to wait until your two years has almost run out to talk to an attorney. They might not be able to get what they need to get done to make this case work.
If you are worried about having a successful case, the best thing is to sit down with an experienced attorney and talk through the logistics of your case. They will tell you what evidence they need to get ahold of. If your loved one passed from nursing home negligence, you want to get a hold of their medical records.
Determining Who Can Bring the Claim
As mentioned before, you need to determine who is allowed to bring your wrongful death claim. If this part is done incorrectly, you may be looking at having your case thrown out. That is something that, if you can avoid it by hiring a lawyer, that’s what you need to do.
In Los Angeles, you may be able to bring the claim if you are the first heir. It goes in order from the spouse, the children, or the heir to a child of the decedent if that child has passed on, too. The person who is deemed to be the claimant has one single claim. If none of these are able to be the claimant, the next people in line to bring the claim are parents, siblings, niece or nephew, and then grandparents. It may seem confusing to anyone who has not dedicated their life to helping the families of lost loved ones. A minor has a claim if they have been 50% dependent on the passed loved one and they must have been living with the passed loved one for at least 180 days before this person has passed.
Frequently Asked Wrongful Death Questions
What Should I Know About Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death claims, emotionally, are probably the most difficult claims to litigate and to represent people for. By definition, a loved one has died at the hands of another because that negligent person violated some rule or some law, and the family is seeking answers as well as recovery. The way these claims are litigated from the other side can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths because they will pick at the scabs. The importance of wrongful death claims is one, to get answers; two, to make a point; and three, to stand up to people who are not being held accountable. It’s important that you have people fighting for you who you trust, who you believe have your best interest at heart.
How Do I Choose the Right Attorney?
A wrongful death claim can be painful and emotional. It will make you talk about things that you never thought you would talk to strangers about. The most important thing, if you’re looking for a lawyer, is to find somebody you can trust, someone you believe will be in your corner, who will fight for you, who will represent your family in the best light, and who will understand not just how much money a person made or contributed to the family, but the bigger picture. They need to understand what the person meant to you and your loved ones, and what that loss has caused. It’s important to be comfortable and find somebody who has done it before, who has results, and who has a proven track record.
What Steps Should I Take?
In a wrongful death case, the first step is to find out all the potential heirs to the claim. A person’s children, spouses, siblings, and parents all have a legitimate and valid claim as a part of the wrongful death action. However, any and all of those people do not need to be involved in seeking recovery for that claim, but they must be listed on a lawsuit and there are additional steps that can be taken to show that they’re not interested in recovery of monetary damages.
Once those people are identified, a lawsuit is filed. Depending on where the death occurred, and where the defendant resides or conducts their business, that will affect where the lawsuit is filed. From that point, we engage in discovery, which is essentially a way for us to get information from the other side under oath. They will do the same thing with the members of the family and people who knew the person who passed away. If the case is not resolved before trial, it proceeds to trial based on the information discovered.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you’re a sibling of a person who passed away as a result of somebody else’s negligence or fault, you have a claim. Depending on whether or not you relied on this individual through monetary or financial support, or if it’s purely the emotional loss, which oftentimes is the more significant component of the loss, all of those are recoverable and you can make claims for them.
Do I Need Money to Start a Claim?
If your concern is the cost of litigation for a wrongful death to get justice for a loved one, I can assure you that you will not have to pay a dime out of your pocket. There are no fees or costs that you have to pay. All of that gets advanced by my office in order to put your claim in the best possible light. If, for some reason, the case is dismissed or dropped, or results in a negative outcome, you will not owe any money. All the money that will be owed to my firm comes off at the end if there’s a result, based on that agreement of retainer, which is a contract between the people making a claim in my office. All the costs, such as filing a lawsuit, hiring experts, conducting depositions, and discovery all gets put forward by my office and you don’t have to pay up front; that all gets recovered from the final resolution of this claim.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Get?
When I met with a family member of a child who passed away, one of the questions she had was, “What damages are we going to seek, and what am I entitled?” The answer is not always easy; it depends. If the person or people making the claim for the wrongful death of an individual relied on that individual for monetary support, they are entitled to that financial loss. If a child supports his parents, that mother is entitled to monetary damages for that loss of the help from the son. All of that is in addition to the loss of companionship, which is an emotional component, which usually comprises the bulk of the wrongful death actions. In addition to the emotional component, if a person is dependent financially on the person who passed away, then they’re entitled to make that claim as well.
Should I Speak with Insurance Companies?
I met with a mother who lost a son in a wrongful death action against a government entity, and she has been contacted by various departments within that governmental entity to get statements and to provide documents. Before we met, she complied as much as she could. My recommendation is that, as soon as you realize that you’re not getting the answers you are entitled to, contact an attorney you can trust because the other side is not interested in helping you. All they want to do is minimize and mitigate their damages or exposure at whatever cost necessary. They’re trying to do something or get you to say things that will discredit the person who passed away, your claim, and what your family is entitled to.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
The number one thing to determine in a wrongful death action is who is responsible. If the responsible person or company is a non-governmental agency such as a private business, the standard two-year statute of limitation applies to filing a lawsuit. If the death occurred as a result of a medical malpractice or a government entity was the cause of the death, then the limitations of when the lawsuit filed gets compressed to a year or six months respectively. It’s important to immediately contact an attorney so the investigation can take place as soon as possible to find out whose fault it was that the person in your life passed away.
Contact Our Office Today
If you need competent legal representation for your wrongful death lawsuit, please call our California wrongful death attorney, Mindy Bish, today for a free consultation. She will be a fierce advocate for you and your family. Don’t hesitate to give her a call. You will be a priority, not just a case number in our office.
About the Author
Mindy Bish made the best decision of her life when she decided to attend law school in her thirties. She has been practicing law since being licensed in 1993, and specifically been fighting for injured people since 1995. She has always strongly believed that injured people should be awarded fair compensation both for their medical bills, but also their pain and suffering. This belief was strengthened when Mindy suffered from her own collision, when driving 50 miles per hour on the highway, she was struck by a semi-truck. This led to multiple surgeries and an even stronger conviction to helping clients after being on the other side of a lawsuit.
Mindy has devoted her life to the practice of law, staying up to date on the new ways of practicing and how she can assist clients. She has graduated from the Trial Lawyer’s College and is co-dean of the Keenan Trial Institute and is qualified to teach seven of their twelve available courses. Mindy also monitors a California Listserve for trial attorneys, as well as a national one.