Nothing is more devastating than losing a loved one unexpectedly. When someone close to us is taken before their time, the shock and grief can be overwhelming. It’s difficult to put a price on an unexpected loss, if it’s the result of someone’s negligence, the law provides certain relatives the right to recover financial damages. Such legal actions are called wrongful death claims.
Unintentional and violence-related injuries are the leading cause of death among persons aged 1 to 44. Someone dies in a fatal injury accident every three minutes.
A child might drown in an improperly maintained swimming pool. A teenager riding a bicycle might get hit by an automobile. A family breadwinner might be fatally injured by a defective product. If a person, company or government agency caused the fatal accident, they are required by law to make you whole again and to repair your damage. In a wrongful death lawsuit, there are two types of damages to consider: economic and non-economic.
When a parent dies in an accident, the surviving spouse and children are plunged into a world of financial chaos, since they are now deprived of the wages and benefits that person would have earned. This is a prime example of economic damage, and family members may legally recover this lost income if someone was at fault for the accident. Such calculations can be extremely complicated, which is why economists are often involved in wrongful death lawsuits.
When we say the value of life is incalculable, we’re referring to non-economic damages. If you’ve lost a husband, a wife or a domestic partner, you will never enjoy companionship or intimacy with that person again. Children who lose their father or mother will grow up without one of their most important role models. If you have unfortunately lost a child, you will never get to see that child graduate from high school, college, or reach other milestones. If you’ve lost a brother or a sister, you may have lost your best friend. You can’t put a price on the loss of a loved one.
If you’ve lost a loved one through someone’s negligence, you have been damaged, both economically and non-economically. Legally, the person who caused that damage must make you whole again. It is the combination of economic and non-economic damages that determines the financial settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.
$2.5 million verdict, wrongful death lawsuit for truck accident
When the parents of two sisters were killed in a wrongful death truck accident, Demas Law Group helped the sisters win a $2.5 million verdict at trial in Tuolumne County. Read more about the case here:
A nine-year-old in Sacramento was electrocuted to death by a faulty lamp post at a car wash. Demas Law Group helped her mother recover $1.3 million in damages. Read more about the case here.
1. What constitutes a wrongful death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligent, careless, intentional or reckless act of another person or entity. Most violence-related fatal injuries are the result of intentional or reckless acts, and the perpetrator can be held both criminally culpable and civilly liable for the death.
It’s important to note that the fatal injury does not have to be caused intentionally in order to establish fault. In California, the “strict liability” rule applies to wrongful death lawsuits.
For example, in the case of an accidental death caused by a faulty product, plaintiffs don’t have to prove the manufacturer put the product on the market with the knowledge that is was defective. If a person is fatally injured because a property owner failed to maintain that property, the property owner as well as the person responsible for the maintenance may be legally at fault, even though they didn’t intend for anyone to be injured.
Strict liability applies to anyone who causes a fatal accident, including individuals, companies and government agencies.
2. Who may claim damages in a wrongful death lawsuit?
In California, when a minor child is fatally injured, the child’s parents, siblings and step siblings may claim damages. However, if a child is married, the parents may not be able to seek compensation.
Familial relations can be complex, and the law makes provisions in cases where an adult loved one is lost by granting the following people the right to financial compensation for their damages:
If multiple people are entitled to claim damages, conflicts may arise between the claimants as to what they are entitled to. For instance, there may be limited insurance proceeds, and the claimants may not be able to agree on how to divide the proceeds. Only very experienced injury attorneys can properly evaluate complex cases like those involving wrongful death damages.
3. Can I file a wrongful death claim if I’m under 18?
4. What types of damages can be recovered in wrongful death claims or lawsuits?
A settlement (or verdict award) in a wrongful death case is comprised of two elements: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages that can be claimed include:
Non-economic damages can include the following:
Some very important elements that one cannot get compensated for are grief, sorrow and mental anguish.
Please note that non-economic damages in a wrongful death case depend heavily on the quality of the relationship between the claimant and the deceased. The nature of the relationship can be proved through letters, emails, photographs, videos, and witnesses. Wrongful death cases can be very complex and very few injury attorneys, including experienced ones, have the knowledge and ability to present compelling and pertinent evidence. Demas Law Group has experience in successfully representing wrongful death claims.
5. Are the damages different when the wrongful death is that of a child?
6. Who can be sued if the wrongful death occurred at work?
Whether a lawsuit can be brought for someone who dies while at work depends on who is responsible for the death. If an employee dies at work and the death was caused by an employer or a co-employee, a personal injury lawsuit cannot be filed against the co-employee or the employer. However, heirs may still recover workers’ compensation benefits, as provided by law.When an employee is killed on the job by a third party’s negligence, then a wrongful death claim can be brought by the legal heirs. This is a very complex area of law, especially if the death occurred at a construction site and general contractors and subcontractors are involved. Consulting with our wrongful death lawyers at Demas Law Group is strongly recommended.
7. How long do I have to file a claim for a wrongful death case?
8. Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. Wrongful death cases can be extremely complex and require exceptional preparation in order to be successful. Determining the fair value of economic and non-economic damages you’ve been deprived of requires professional skill and expertise. The many tasks involved in reaching that determination can involve the following legal actions:
There are of course many other legal actions required in any wrongful death suit. Rather than go down this potential legal minefield on your own, consider contacting an experienced wrongful death attorney at Demas Law Group.
9. How much is my wrongful death case worth?