In nearly any type of accident, a victim can die as a result of their injuries. Sometimes, death is instantaneous. In other situations, the victim dies days, weeks, or even months later from complications of the injury they sustained in the accident.
Any time a victim dies because of another party’s negligence, the victim’s loved ones may seek compensation for their damages related to the loss through a wrongful death claim. Like with a personal injury claim, they must demonstrate how their loved one’s death would not have occurred if another party involved in the accident had acted in a reasonable manner. Victims’ survivors can file wrongful death claims after any type of fatal accident, such as a car accident, a slip and fall, a boating accident, an act of medical malpractice, or a dog bite.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
After an accidental death, the victim’ spouse and children are “first in line” to recover compensation through a wrongful death claim. If the victim had a domestic partner, the domestic partner has the same right that a spouse has to file a wrongful death claim.
When an individual dies without a spouse, domestic partner, or children, the loved one with the right to file a wrongful death claim is the party deemed “next in line” by California’s intestate succession law. Usually, this is the victim’s parents or siblings. In some cases, a victim’s stepchild or putative spouse, the individual who lived with the victim and believed in good faith to be their legal spouse, can recover compensation for wrongful death damages.
Which Damages Can be Recovered through a Wrongful Death Claim?
With a wrongful death claim, damages fall into two categories: those payable to the victim’s estate and those payable to the individual who filed the wrongful death claim and any other beneficiaries named in the claim, such as the victim’s minor children. Although ultimately, the compensation paid to the victim’s estate is passed along to their loved ones through the victim’s estate plans and the probate process, this compensation may also be used to pay the estate’s debts.
Compensation paid to the victim’s estate includes:
- The victim’s medical bills following the accident;
- The victim’s funeral and burial expenses; and
- The victim’s lost income. In addition to the wages they were earning at the time of their death, this category of damages includes the victim’s projected earnings over the remainder of their career.
Compensation paid to the party who filed the wrongful death claim includes:
- The victim’s financial contributions to their household;
- The victim’s non-financial household contributions, like their daily chores and management of household expenses;
- The filer’s own emotional trauma caused by the victim’s death; and
- The loss of the victim’s companionship, guidance, and love.
Pursuing Compensation for your Damages After Losing a Loved One in an Accident
After losing a loved one in an accident, the victim’s spouse or other loved one in a position to pursue compensation may file a wrongful death claim with the allegedly negligent party’s insurance provider. Depending on the type of accident that occurred, this could be their automobile, homeowner, or commercial insurance provider.
In the claim, the filer must provide sufficient evidence to support their assertion that the insured party acted in a negligent manner and that this negligence directly caused the accident that resulted in the victim’s death. The claim must also include evidence that supports the filer’s claim that they and the victim’s estate suffered specific financial damages because of the death.
Contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible after losing your loved one. They can help you gather relevant evidence to support your claim, file the claim, and advise you through the claim settlement process. The evidence you use to support your claim can include:
- Photographs of the accident scene;
- A copy of the official police report for the accident;
- Eyewitness testimonies of the accident;
- Video surveillance that captured the accident;
- Copies of your loved one’s medical expenses;
- Copies of your loved one’s funeral expenses;
- Documentation showing your loved one’s current wage rate and their projected compensation for the remainder of their career;
- Testimonies from expert witnesses, parties whose professional knowledge enables them to talk about an accident and injury without having witnessed it firsthand. This can include a doctor, a mechanic, an engineer, or any other professional whose experience is deemed relevant to the claim;
- Documentation showing your own emotional trauma following the death and how it has affected your life; and
- Documentation showing your loved one’s role in your family as a spouse, parent, and provider.
In most circumstances, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California is two years from the date of the victim’s death. Please be advised that your potential case is governed by a statute of limitations (a limited time period in which you must begin a lawsuit). Statutes of limitations differ depending on the type of case involved. Some of these time periods may be as short as six months, while others can be as long as two years. We do not have enough information to identify which statute of limitations applies in your case. You should consult with a lawyer, the California Code of Civil Procedure, internet resources, and/or visit your law library to identify the applicable statute of limitations for your matter. A lawsuit is not the same as an insurance claim – a lawsuit is a drawn-out legal process that progresses through multiple stages to reach a final verdict and ruling. Claimants usually only file wrongful death lawsuits when they are unable to reach fair settlements with negligent parties’ insurance providers.
Work with an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Los Angeles
When you lose a loved one in an accident, the loss can be emotionally as well as financially devastating. Nothing can bring your loved one back, but a successful wrongful death claim can help you recover compensation for the financial damages you suffered because of the loss. One way to give your claim the best possible chance of succeeding is to work with an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer who has a track record of recovering compensation for clients. Contact our team at the Dolan Law Firm today to set up your initial consultation with us, during which we will go over your case in greater detail and advise you on the steps to take next.