Wrongful Death Lawsuit
In the most tragic auto accident cases, the driver and/or passengers do not survive their injuries. For grieving families, there is nothing more to do than mourn the loss of their loved one. Yet there may be a light at the end of the tunnel – a wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim that seeks to recover monetary damages from the person or entity that caused the death of a loved one. Unlike a criminal case, which is brought by the state and may result in imprisonment or fines for the defendant, a wrongful death lawsuit is brought by close family members and may result in financial compensation.
Wrongful Death vs. Personal Injury Claims
Both legal claims are based on negligence – the failure to exercise reasonable care while performing a duty or task that causes harm to another person. However, there are key differences in terms of who can file each claim and what compensation can be recovered.
A personal injury claim is filed by an injured person who suffered harm due to someone else’s negligence. For example, if someone is injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, they can file a personal injury claim against the driver to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In a wrongful death action, since the person cannot file a claim themself, the surviving family members or the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death claim for their losses. To prove wrongful death, the plaintiff must show through credible evidence that the defendant violated their duty of care and caused the death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Each state has its own wrongful death statute that determines who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 the following people can file:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The deceased’s surviving children
- The deceased’s surviving grandchildren, if their parents are also deceased
- The deceased’s surviving parents or siblings, if they were financially dependent on the deceased
- Any other person who would inherit from the deceased under California’s intestate succession laws, if there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, parent, or sibling.
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit in Irvine is to compensate for the losses suffered as a result of a loved one’s death. These losses are divided into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are measured in monetary terms, such as:
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Medical bills incurred by the deceased before death
- Lost income and benefits that the deceased would have earned in the future
- Lost inheritance
- The value of household services that the deceased provided
Non-economic damages cannot be quantified in money, but reflect the emotional and intangible impact of the death on the survivors, such as:
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support
- Loss of guidance and training
In some cases, punitive damages may also be available in wrongful death cases. These are meant to punish the defendant for intentional or grossly negligent behavior.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Suit in California?
Family members typically two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a wrongful death case in Irvine if someone else’s wrongful act or neglect caused their death. This is known as the statute of limitations, and it applies to most personal injury cases in California.
How Long Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Take?
Generally speaking, an Irvine wrongful death lawsuit can take anywhere from a few months to several years to settle. Most wrongful death claims are resolved before trial, either through a settlement agreement or a mediation process. A settlement is a voluntary agreement between you and the defendant to end the lawsuit in exchange for a certain amount of money. A mediation is a facilitated negotiation between you and the defendant, with the help of a neutral third-party mediator, who tries to help you reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
However, some wrongful death claims may go to trial if the parties cannot agree on a fair settlement or if there are disputed issues of fact or law that need to be decided by a judge or jury. A trial can be risky, costly, and time-consuming for both sides, so it is usually the last resort.
Contact an Irvine Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligent or wrongful act, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit and recover compensation for your losses. However, pursuing a wrongful death claim can be challenging and complicated, especially when you are dealing with grief and emotional distress. You need experienced and compassionate wrongful death lawyers who can guide you through the legal process and fight for your rights.
At our personal injury law firm in Irvine, we have helped many clients who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to negligence or malicious conduct. We understand how devastating and overwhelming this experience can be, and we are here to support you every step of the way. We offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you don’t pay us anything unless we win your case. Call today at (949) 850-6767.