Severe, life-changing catastrophic injuries and events leading to the death of a child or a loved one do not just happen by accident. People are injured and killed through the negligence and carelessness of others.
Thankfully, the law allows those who have experienced catastrophic injuries or those who have lost a child or a loved one forever to recover damages against negligent and careless individuals, landlords, corporations, businesses and government agencies.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a loved one dies because of an accident caused by the negligence of another. A wrongful death may also be caused by an intentional, illegal act of another. California law allows certain heirs to sue the person, business, or other entity responsible for the death of their loved one. Eligible heirs include a deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children.
Common Accidents That May Lead to Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims may involve an accident, like a car wreck, or an intentional act, like manslaughter. Common examples of accidents resulting in wrongful death include:
- Motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents;
- Defective products or vehicles;
- Exposure to toxic chemicals;
- Medical malpractice;
- Workplace accidents; and
- Commercial truck accidents
Examples of intentional acts leading to a wrongful death claim might be:
- Murder, and
A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury lawsuit. You can file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation from the at-fault party for the financial and psychological pain your loved one’s death has caused you.
Possible Damages and Compensation
In addition to proving that a negligent or wrongful act resulted in your loved one’s death, a wrongful death claim also requires you to prove your loved one’s death resulted in quantifiable legal damages. You must prove that the death of your loved one is directly responsible for financial hardship or loss of emotional support or household contributions.
When a wrongful death lawsuit is successful, you can recover funeral and burial expenses, some financial losses, and compensation for mental pain and suffering. You might be able to recover the following damages through a wrongful death claim:
- Loss of care and support,
- Loss of consortium,
- Existing medical expenses of the decedent,
- Inheritance loss,
- Loss of love and companionship, and
- Loss of the deceased person’s income.
Providing evidence of your wrongful death damages is imperative. You can help your Los Angeles wrongful death attorney calculate your financial losses by saving medical bills and invoices and by gathering pay stubs. You might also have to present evidence of the close relationship between you and the decedent. Thus, it is important early on to identify witnesses who knew you and the decedent and who can testify to your relationship and the effect the decedent’s death has had on you.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in CA
When someone dies due to the negligent or wrongful act of another, the law allows the surviving family to seek compensation in civil court. But like most causes of action, you must file your lawsuit within a certain time frame. The statute of limitations sets a time limit by which a claim must be filed. A court will likely dismiss a claim if a party files it after the statute of limitations has expired.
Under California law, eligible family members have only two years from the victim’s death to file a lawsuit in civil court. However, some exceptions may apply that will give you more or less time to file. Talking to an experienced wrongful death lawyer in LA is the best way to determine how the statute of limitations and any exceptions might apply to your case.
How to Prove a Wrongful Death Case
To successfully prove a wrongful death case in court, gathering and presenting compelling evidence and documentation is crucial. Here are key elements that are typically required:
- Death Certificate: The official death certificate is the foundational document that confirms the individual’s passing and provides essential details, such as the cause and location of death.
- Autopsy Reports: In cases involving medical malpractice or suspicious circumstances, autopsy reports can provide critical insights into the cause of death, helping establish liability.
- Medical Records: Comprehensive medical records can substantiate claims of negligence, demonstrating the standard of care provided and any deviations that may have led to the death.
- Eyewitness Statements: Statements from individuals who witnessed the incident leading to the death or who can testify to the victim’s suffering and the impact on surviving family members can be highly persuasive.
- Expert Witnesses: Expert testimony from professionals such as medical experts, accident reconstruction specialists, or forensic experts can clarify complex issues and support the plaintiff’s case.
- Police Reports and Accident Reports: In cases involving accidents or criminal acts, official reports can provide objective accounts of the incident and any contributing factors.
- Employment Records: In workplace-related wrongful death cases, employment records can help establish negligence on the part of an employer or coworker.
- Financial Records: Documentation of the deceased’s income, expenses, and financial contributions to their family can be crucial in assessing the economic damages suffered by survivors.
- Photographs and Videos: Visual evidence, including photographs and videos, can help recreate the scene, document injuries, or illustrate unsafe conditions that led to the death.
- Communication Records: Emails, text messages, or other forms of communication may reveal crucial information, such as negligence or liability.
- Witness Testimonies: Depositions or sworn statements from witnesses, including friends, family, or coworkers, can provide valuable insights into the victim’s life and the circumstances surrounding their death.
- Insurance Policies: Information about insurance coverage, including life insurance, can impact the compensation available to survivors.
It’s essential to work closely with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help identify, gather, and present this evidence effectively in court. Building a strong case requires careful attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Collecting and presenting this evidence can significantly strengthen your position when seeking justice for a wrongful death.
We Are Wrongful Death Attorneys in Los Angeles Who Can Help You
The Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers at Riley | Ersoff LLP have more than 100 years of experience handling some of the toughest cases you can imagine. From toxic torts to fires to building collapses, the attorneys at Riley | Ersoff LLP have pretty much seen it all.
Riley | Ersoff LLP partner and attorney Victoria L. Ersoff has 25 years’ of experience litigating catastrophic injuries and wrongful death cases. Victoria’s depth of experience is astounding and she has both the smarts and the backbone to force even the most recalcitrant defendants and insurance companies to compensate the victims of negligent conduct.
We know that money cannot replace a loved one or turn back time. But just compensation can help rebuild lives and provide a foundation for those who lost someone they love to move forward knowing they are financially safe and secure. Contact a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer at Riley | Ersoff LLP today by calling or filling out our online form.