Wrongful Death Attorney in Orange County

It is always devastating when a family member passes away, but when a death is unexpected and caused by the negligence or misconduct of another, it can be even worse. A Wrongful Death claim is just that. It is a claim by the victim’s survivors that another person, company or organization should be held legally responsible and compensate the survivors for the horrible loss they have suffered.

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How do I know if I have a Wrongful Death case?

In the legal world, the term “Wrongful Death” generally refers to any death which occurred due to the intentional, negligence, or reckless actions of another. In such circumstances, the State of California has codified exactly who is allowed to bring a claim for Wrongful Death in the Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, issue of deceased children, or if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession;
  • If they were dependent on the decedent, the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents.
  • A minor who at the time of the decedent’s death, had resided with the decedent for the previous 180 days and was dependent on the decedent or at least one-half of the minor’s support; or
  • The personal representative of the decedent’s estate on behalf of the estate.

So as you can see, whether or not you are entitled to bring a claim can be complex and not easy to figure out. If you have suffered the loss of a love one, please call us at 877-529-3434 to speak with one of our compassionate attorneys about the case.

Isn’t the government going to put the perpetrator in jail?

A common question we hear from family members is asking why the person who is responsible for the death is not in jail. There can be many reasons for this, but the primary distinction to understand is that there is a difference between criminal and civil cases.

In a criminal case, the police and district attorney have made a decision that the perpetrator committed a criminal act which under the law is punishable as a crime. They have determined that there is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is criminally liable. However, whether or not criminal charges are pursued, a person can still be sued civilly for Wrongful Death.

In a civil case, the victim’s family needs only to be able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (i.e. more likely than not) that another’s negligence caused the death. Negligence is different than criminal. Basically, negligence occurs when a death is an accident. If a driver accidentally runs a red light and causes the death of a pedestrian, this would give rise to a civil claim for wrongful death, but the district attorney would not likely pursue any criminal charges because it was an accident. On the other hand, if the driver was intoxicated and had gotten DUI tickets before, then more serious criminal charges would be pursued.

Thus, if one of your loved ones has unfortunately passed away at the hands of another, do not be discouraged by the fact that the perpetrator has not been put in jail. Even if criminal charges are not being sought, you could still potentially have a civil claim for Wrongful Death to help compensate you for your losses.

What is the difference between a Wrongful Death claim and a regular accident claim?

Wrongful Death claims arising from the negligence of another are similar to regular accident claims in some respects and different in others. They are similar in that both require proof that the negligence of another caused the harm, but different in terms of who can bring the claim and what damages can be recovered.

In a regular accident case, it is the person who is actually physically harmed who ordinarily can bring the claim. However, in a Wrongful Death claim, as discussed above, there are certain identified people who can bring the claim. This is because, of course, the person injured in the accident has passed away and can no longer bring the claim.

Similarly, what is recoverable is different. In a regular accident case, the person who was injured can seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering. In a Wrongful Death claim, however, it is the survivor’s damages that can be obtained. This includes items such as:

  • The financial support provided by the decedent;
  • The loss of gifts or benefits that would have been expected to receive from the decedent;
  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • The value of household services that that decedent would have provided;
  • The loss of decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support;
  • The loss of decedent’s training and guidance

These losses can be difficult to calculate. Financial support often involves complex calculations based on previous earnings, education, and life expectancy. Likewise, the value of a love and companionship is difficult to put a price tag on. That is why it is important to have an experienced Wrongful Death attorney review your case.

If medical expenses are an issue, then there is the possibility of brining what is called a Survivorship action in which the medical expenses are sought on behalf of the decedent’s estates. Although related to a Wrongful Death claim, it is a separate claim.

How long do I have to bring a claim?

We understand that after a loved one passes away, often the last thing that the survivors are thinking about is filing a lawsuit. They are grieving and not focusing on the legal aspects of the case. In California, the general statute of limitations for negligence actions is two years. This means that a case must either be settled or a lawsuit filed within two years of the date of the negligence.

However, in certain circumstances, the time could be much less. For example, claims arising from the conduct of a medical provider must give notice within one year and claims against a government entity must give notice within six months. Thus, while it is important to grieve, it is also important to not delay in seeking the advice of an experienced Wrongful Death attorney. If you wait too long, your claim could be barred by operation of law.

Trust a Firm with Decades of Experience

The attorneys at Beckerman Anderson APC have decades of years of combined experience in handling car accident claims. We’ve handled numerous types of vehicle accidents, including rollover accidents, commercial vehicle accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, head-on collisions, accidents caused by DUI drivers, and cases involving multiple vehicles. Contact our attorneys at 877-529-3434.

Our Firm Is Prepared to Take Insurance Companies to Trial

Auto insurance companies know which lawyers in California are willing and prepared to take them to trial to obtain fair compensation for their clients and which lawyers will not do that. In order to ensure that you obtain the compensation you deserve, it is critical to obtain a trial lawyer to handle your car accident claim who is willing to take your case to court.

Hiring a competent trial lawyer with a strong reputation will also help expedite the resolution of your claim. The threat of litigation from an experienced trial lawyer can often compel insurance companies to promptly pay the claims of individuals who are injured in car accidents. If the insurance company knows that the lawyer for the victim is unprepared to proceed to trial, they are less likely to promptly pay the fair value of a claim. Contact our attorneys at 877-529-3434.

Why It’s Important to Hire an Experienced Attorney

If an insurance company refuses to pay a claim, the injured person will be required to file a lawsuit. While the amount of time it takes to get to trial varies depending on the Court in which the case is filed, obtaining a trial date for a car accident claim can take more than a year from the time the lawsuit is filed. During this time, depositions will be taken, discovery will be conducted, and the factual and legal basis for the claim will be established. Even after a jury trial, it is possible that an appeal could be filed, which would require additional time to resolve. No one can guarantee how quickly an auto accident claim will be resolved, but hiring an experienced car accident attorney is the best way to obtain fair compensation in a timely manner.

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