Wrongful death lawyer Mission Viejo
File a Claim With a Wrongful Death Law Firm
Wrongful death cases are civil actions that seek monetary compensation for damages after a family member dies as a result of the negligence, willful or intentional act or failure to act of another person or entity. There is a difference between a natural death and a sudden death. The latter likely involves circumstances that could have been prevented. If you are convinced that the negligence or recklessness of another person led directly to the death of your loved one, you can sue them for causing a wrongful death.
These cases are distinguished from criminal cases primarily by the fact that a defendant doesn’t face incarceration if he or she is found guilty. The outcome of these kinds of cases in purely monetary, and if you believe the perpetrator needs jail time, you should look into filing a criminal claim.
Leading Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death cases in California are controlled by section 377.60 of the Code of Civil Procedure. As per our Mission Viejo wrongful death attorneys, nearly all wrongful death cases in and around Orange County are brought pursuant to the law of negligence. Here are some of the leading causes of wrongful death claims and litigation:
- Auto, truck and motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Fatal injuries from dangerous conditions on property that is owned or occupied by others.
- Dangerously defective products
- Construction and industrial accidents
- Medical malpractice
Drivers that exhibit negligence by driving while intoxicated, driving while distracted, and driving recklessly contribute to cases of wrongful death due to traffic collisions. Due to the sheer force of a car crash, injuries can be so severe that they cause the victim to pass away before arriving at the hospital or in the days following the collision.
Despite being surrounded by two tons of steel, some drivers do not take the task seriously. So much so that distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019, and the CDC estimates that around eight people per day are killed due to driving while distracted. Distracted driving is virtually any activity that diverts your attention from driving, including talking on the phone, texting, eating, drinking, talking to passengers in your vehicle, changing stations on the radio, or paying too much attention to your navigation system. The different categories your attorney may cite include:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
While behind the wheel, driving should take priority over anything else. Texting is the most common and most dangerous distraction. Typing out a message or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds, which doesn’t seem like much, but at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
This is especially harmful to cyclists. Bicycles are small, thin, and compact. They are less prominent in a mirror than motor vehicles and the agility afforded by a bicycle allows the rider to move and maneuver in ways that are unfamiliar to the driver of a car. This is why many cyclists succumb to their injuries when they collide with vehicles. None of this obviates the need for drivers to be alert and vigilant. They should pay close attention to the hand signals of a bicyclist and should allow them the space they need to overtake and make turns.
If you were hit by a driver who was not paying attention, then you should hold them accountable.
Driving While Intoxicated
It is illegal in California, as it is in every other state, to drive under the influence of alcohol. Yet, some people do it anyway. A driver impaired by alcohol will have blurry vision, slow reflexes, and many other incapacities that make them dangerous to bicyclists, motorists, and everyone else in their path. If you have been hit by a drunk driver, it is possible for you to file a civil judgment even if the person has already been criminally convicted.
Defective bike path
If you have lost a family member as a result of an act or failure to act of another person or legal entity, contact our wrongful death lawyers here at the Accident Lawyers Firm. We can arrange for a confidential free consultation and case review.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case?
Only certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. They are typically limited to close family members and those who were financially dependent on the deceased.
Here’s how California’s statute prioritizes them:
- Spouses and domestic partners
- The children and adopted children of the deceased person
- Grandchildren if the children of the deceased person are also deceased
- A stepchild who depended on the deceased person for a minimum of 50% of their support
- Parents of a child who passed
The Burden of Proof
Another distinguishing characteristic between a wrongful death case and a criminal homicide prosecution is the burden of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil wrongful death case, the defendant need only be proved guilty by a preponderance of the evidence. What that means is that the plaintiff’s version of events is more likely true than not true. A wrongful death case can be heard at the same time as a criminal homicide prosecution, but it will be heard in a different courtroom with a different judge and jury.
Damages in Wrongful Death Settlements and Trials
Damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases are categorized as economic and non-economic. Both of these types of damages are awarded to the decedent’s family in wrongful death cases.
Economic damages include:
- Loss of income and support for the household
- Future lost earnings and benefits
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses incurred due to the injuries that caused the untimely death
Here are some examples of non-economic damages in wrongful death settlements and trials:
- The loss of services of the decedent by the household
- The loss of advice, guidance, and moral support that a child may have received from the deceased parent
- The loss of consortium and affection suffered by the defendant’s spouse
- Emotional trauma
You will need a skilled attorney to prove these damages. While financial damages can be easily quantified through bills and pay stubs, but non-economic damages are much harder to prove. They may recommend that you prove your emotional loss by keeping a journal detailing your emotions, and you can also start seeing a therapist to begin working through your loss.
Section 377.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure also provides for a survival action that is usually added as a second count of a wrongful death lawsuit. These actions are labeled as such because the right to sue for damages contemplated under section 377.30 survives the victim’s death. In order to bring this action, a person must have survived the fatal accident, even for a few moments before dying. As opposed to being awarded to the decedent’s family, damages in survival actions are awarded to the decedent’s estate for losses incurred before the victim’s death. Those damages might consist of property damage along with medical bills and lost earnings between the time of the accident and time of death.
The Statute of Limitations
The general rule in California is that a decedent’s family has two years from the date of death to file their wrongful death lawsuit. For survival actions, that limitations period is two years from the date of injury or six months from the date of death, whichever is later. Failure to file an appropriate lawsuit within the time contemplated by the applicable statute of limitations is almost certain to result in dismissal of the case.
If you lost a family member as a result of the negligence, willful or intentional act or failure to act of another person or entity anywhere in California, contact our injury attorney to arrange for a free consultation and case review. Don’t delay, you might only have six months to take initial steps. We want to know what happened and how it happened. After that, we can talk about your legal options. Remember that evidence can get lost or destroyed and witnesses can disappear. If we’re retained to represent you, no legal fees are due unless we obtain a settlement or award on your behalf.