Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer

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When you suffer a serious personal injury due to the actions of another, a personal injury lawyer can help you obtain compensation to recover from your injuries. But what can you do if a serious personal injury results in the death of a loved one?

No amount of money will bring your loved one back or fill the hole in your heart. However, you may be facing severe financial expenses or losses due to that death. A wrongful death claim can provide you with the compensation you need to face the aftermath of the loss of your loved one. 

What Constitutes Wrongful Death In California?

Wrongful death can be defined in terms of other types of personal injury claims. If the deceased would have been liable to file a personal injury claim, then an appropriate party can file a wrongful death claim to recover similar damages.

A wrongful death claim will always involve the death of a person resulting from the negligent or intentional actions of another party. The connection between those actions and the death is the main factor that constitutes a wrongful death claim.

Common Causes Of Wrongful Death

There are several common causes of wrongful deaths in Northern California. Different types of cases require different legal approaches. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can investigate a claim, determine what happened, and how state laws allow compensation in those circumstances. 

The following are some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims:

  • Drunk driving: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 10,000 to 15,000 deaths each year are attributable to alcohol-impaired driving
  • Workplace accidents: Wrongful deaths are particularly common in construction and industrial sectors, where accidents often involve heavy equipment
  • Medical malpractice: According to Johns Hopkins, medical malpractice is the cause of roughly 400,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
  • Defective products: Poorly designed products or products without appropriate warnings lead to fatalities and recalls
  • Intentional action: Criminal activities can result in a wrongful death claim when they take the life of the victim

If you think another party was liable for the death of your loved one, it’s vital to consult with a wrongful death lawyer. They can accurately evaluate whether the circumstances qualify for a wrongful death claim in California.

Who Is Liable For A Wrongful Death?

The liable party in a wrongful death claim is whichever party either negligently or intentionally caused your loved one to die. Most wrongful deaths involve negligence. This means that the responsible party deviated from accepted safe practices when they had a duty not to.

Almost anyone can be a liable party, depending on the circumstances of the accident. For example, the liable party might be:

  • Another driver in a car accident
  • The company that manufactured a defective product
  • A nurse who ignored hospital policy
  • A foreman who didn’t ensure that all employees had appropriate personal protective equipment

In some cases, multiple parties may be liable. Under California law, when multiple parties are responsible, they each pay compensation in direct relation to the percentage they are responsible for the death.

Who May Sue For Wrongful Death?

If you are a relative of the deceased, you may wonder whether you can sue for wrongful death. The answer depends on your relationship with the deceased. 

According to the California legislature, you have the right to sue for wrongful death only if you fall into one of three categories:

Spouses, Partners, Children, And Some Grandchildren

The highest priority for filing a lawsuit goes to the spouse, domestic partners, and surviving children of the deceased. Additionally, if the deceased has any deceased children, their children also have priority to file a lawsuit.

Anyone Who Could Inherit From The Deceased If They Were Intestate

Regardless of whether the deceased had a will or not, the next group with priority is anyone who would qualify to inherit the deceased’s property if they had died intestate. This typically means the deceased’s parents and siblings.

People Financially Dependent On The Deceased

Finally, anyone else who is financially dependent on the deceased and can demonstrate this can file a wrongful death claim in Sacramento. Common examples are stepchildren or the putative spouse of the deceased.

What Damages May Be Collected For The Death Of A Loved One?

When you succeed at a wrongful death claim, you receive damages. This is compensation for any losses you suffered, including losses that can’t be given a definitive financial value. The following are common damages you can receive from a wrongful death claim:

Medical Bills

Most wrongful death claims involve some medical bills, usually for an emergency room visit resulting from the injury. If your loved one had survived, those medical bills would have been compensated by the liable party.

Because the victim passed in this situation, those bills would fall to someone else or be accounted for by taking money away from the deceased’s estate. In either case, you can get compensation from the responsible party for those costs, as long as the costs were related to the injury that caused the death of your loved one.

Final Expenses

There are a lot of expenses involved in arranging the affairs of someone who has died. Surviving relatives need to pay for a funeral, an accountant, and possibly a lawyer. You may also face additional bills if the person has property or businesses that need to be handled.

All of these expenses are eligible for compensation. You will need to consult a lawyer to help you determine exactly what qualifies as a final expense.

Loss of Income

Loss of income is a type of damage you can only receive if you are a dependent or an inheritor of the deceased. Because your loved one died, they are no longer earning an income. You can potentially get compensation equal to the expected value you would have received from that income if they had lived and continued earning for years or even decades more.

When a wrongful death lawyer calculates the value of loss of income, they consider many factors, including how long the person was likely to work before retiring and how much they were likely to earn during those years. Additionally, these calculations include pensions and retirement income that you would have benefited from.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering represent the anguish that you suffer after the loss of a loved one. Unlike medical bills, funeral expenses, and similar losses, there is no way to definitively place a value on damages in this category. 

Instead, your lawyer will use various methods, including comparison to similar cases, to determine a value of compensation that is fair for the harm you suffered.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are reasonably rare, even in wrongful death claims. These damages can only be assigned after a jury trial. They are assigned when the jury determines that the actions of the responsible party were so outrageous that the party needs to be deterred from doing it again.

Effectively, this is a fine that the wronged party receives instead of the state. Punitive damages can be quite high when the responsible party’s actions are particularly egregious.

Loss of Consortium

The final category of damages is loss of consortium. This is similar to pain and suffering in that it reflects a type of harm that can’t be definitively calculated. Compensation for loss of consortium is compensation for the pleasure you will never again receive from spending time with your deceased loved one. 

Typically, the stronger your relationship with the deceased and the longer they were expected to live, the more compensation you will get.

What Is The Deadline To File A Wrongful Death Claim In California?

If you lose a loved one in Sacramento, you should contact a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. If you wait too long, the statute of limitations will run out, preventing you from getting compensation for your loss.

The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in California is two years from the date that your loved one died. This differs slightly from the statute of limitations in other types of personal injury claims because it isn’t based on when your loved one suffered the injury.

This could be important if your loved one was injured but didn’t die for months or even years after suffering that harm. Generally, this is likely to come up in certain types of defective products or medical malpractice cases, where the effects may take years to fully manifest after the initial harm. In those cases, the date of death starts the two-year clock.

How Can Sette Law Help Me With A Wrongful Death Case?

Filing a wrongful death claim can feel daunting. Handling the unexpected death of a loved one is hard enough without the bureaucracy of insurance claims and legal red tape. Sette Law is devoted to making the process as stress-free as possible for our clients.

We start by offering a free consultation, where you can ask as many questions as you want. During that consultation, our legal team will help you understand your rights and will evaluate how strong your claim is. Part of deciding whether to pursue a case is understanding how likely you are to win and how much compensation you are likely to receive when it is done.

If you choose to let Sette Law handle your wrongful death claim, our legal team will take as much work off your plate as possible. With a lawyer handling interactions with the courts and insurance companies, your claim can proceed more smoothly and take less time.

Perhaps most importantly, allowing us to handle your claim lets you focus your full attention on recovering emotionally from your loss. This is a critical benefit of being represented by Sette Law.

Proving Negligence In A Wrongful Death Case

We also take the lead in proving negligence. This means that we fully investigate your claim and gather any evidence. Our legal team can interview witnesses and retain copies of all medical and financial records. Gathering and securing this evidence is the key to proving the four elements of negligence, which include:

  • Duty of care: Your lawyer needs to establish that the defendant had a relationship with the deceased that required them to avoid harming them
  • Breach of duty: Violation of that duty could be something like drinking before driving or failing to monitor the life signs of a sick patient
  • Damages: Your lawyer can use financial records to show the value of your claim
  • Causation: Your lawyer needs to prove the breach of duty resulted in the harm that eventually led to the death of your loved one

If your lawyer has enough evidence to prove negligence, they can negotiate a settlement or take the case to trial.

Call Sette Law Today For Trusted Legal Support

A compassionate wrongful death lawyer can make all the difference when filing a wrongful death claim in Sacramento. Losing a loved one is hard enough. Sette Law will handle your wrongful death claim with compassion and dignity.

If you have lost a loved one, Sette Law is here for you. Schedule your free consultation today.

Sources:

Alcohol-Impaired Driving.

CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE – CCP 377.60Report Highlights Public Health Impact of Serious Harms From Diagnostic Error in U.S. (2023).