Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer
If someone you love died as a result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Call our wrongful death lawyer today at Beckerman Anderson to see how we can help.
It is always devastating when a family member passes away, but when a death is unexpected and caused by negligence or misconduct, it’s even worse. When this happens, the surviving family members have the legal right to hold the person, company, or organization responsible for the death by filing a wrongful death claim. This compensates the survivors for the horrible loss they have suffered.
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What is Defined as Wrongful Death?
When someone dies as a result of the negligence, misconduct or malpractice of another person entity, that is referred to as wrongful death.
Contrary to popular belief, a wrongful death claim is not a criminal charge, but a civil lawsuit. Though sometimes you may see a story in the headlines about a defendant who goes through both a criminal trial as well as a wrongful death case, it is important to distingish that they are two separate courts with two different goals.
While a criminal case often resolves with prison time for the person who caused the death, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit intended to help financially compensate the deceased person’s surviving family members for the loss they have endured. When a wrongful death claim is successful, the offender is ordered by the court to pay the surviving family members or the personal representative of the estate monetary damages.
What Are Some Common Causes Of Wrongful Deaths in Orange County?
Wrongful death can happen just about anywhere, including in the workplace, in public spaces and even on roadways. The most common situations that result in wrongful death are as follows:
- Auto accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Defective or dangerous products
- Premises liability injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace injuries
Can More Than One Person Be Liable for an Orange County Wrongful Death?
The short answer is that yes, in some cases, there is more than one responsible party that you can file suit against for a wrongful death. This is one of the reasons why it is best to pursue them with the guidance and direction of an experienced wrongful death attorney. Their knowledge and skill in this area will ensure that you name every defendant who could potentially owe compensation to you. Below are some scenarios involving multiple liabilities.
Sometimes in fatal car accidents, there is more than one responsible party for the death that occurred. Here are a few of the people you might include in your claim, depending the facts of the case:
- The negligent driver
- The negligent driver’s insurance carrier
- The negligent driver’s employer if the car was a company vehicle or on the clock when the accident occurred
- Anyone who performed maintenance on the vehicle, if that work somehow contributed to the accident
- Those who distributed, manufactured or sold defective parts for the vehicle if those parts contributed to the accident
When someone dies while receiving medical care, such as in the hospital or during surgery, there may be more than one liable party. Here are some examples of those who may be named as defendants in a medical wrongful death:
- Doctors, including surgeons
- The hospital or other medical facility
- A company that distributed or manufactured any medical appliances or medications that played a role in the wrongful death
- Hospital staff members such as nurses, medics and pharmacists
These involve holding property owners responsible for accidents that happen on their property, such as a slip and fall injury at a public park that results in a visitor’s death. In a case like this, you might see the following being held liable:
- The property owner
- The managing entity
- The company in charge of the park’s maintenance and upkeep
Who is Allowed to Sue in a Wrongful Death Case?
A California wrongful death claim can be brought when someone dies due to a negligent or wrongful act. But, who should file the lawsuit? Those who are eligible by law to pursue a wrongful death claim include:
- The deaceased person’s husband, wife, or domestic partner
- Their children
- Their parents, siblings, or someone entitled to the estate’s assets as established in probate court
- Their stepchildren
To put it simply, it is usually an immediate family member who sues when a wrongful death has occurred. But, there are cases in which it is someone else. To find out for sure if you can bring a claim concerning the wrongful loss of your loved one, contact an Orange County wrongful death lawyer at Beckerman Anderson. They will carefully listen to the details of your situation and help you figure out how to proceed.
How Is Wrongful Death Different From Homicide?
Homicide is literally defined as the killing of one person by another. This could be a malicious killing or completely unintentional. The word itself is used on death certificates to describe how the death occurred. Furthermore, homicide is generally a term you will see when discussing a criminal case.
Wrongful death, on the other hand, has nothing to do with criminal court. It is a lawsuit in civil court brought by the deceased person’s surviving family members. In a wrongful death suit, the award is for damages the surviving family members have experienced due to the untimely and preventable death of their loved one. By comparison, the penalties for a homicide case are fines and incarceration.
In the state of California, surviving family members are still entitled to bring a wrongful death claim against someone, even if that individual is also criminally charged.
What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Economic and non-economic damages can both be recovered via a wrongful death claim.
Economic damages refer to those things you can provide documentation for to prove how much financial loss occurred. Some common examples of these damages include:
- Funeral, burial, and cremation expenses
- Medical bills associated with the treatment of the lost loved one prior to their death
- Loss of earnings including future wages
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are not as easy to calculate because there is no documentation like receipts to draw from when figuring out the total. Examples of common non-economic damages are:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium (the loss of benefits associated with having a familial or intimate relationship)
The Time Limit in California to File Your Wrongful Death Claim
In California, wrongful death claims usually must be filed within two years from the date that the death occurred. If this deadline lapses before you file with the appropriate court, you will lose your chance at collecting financial compensation for good. There are sometimes other factors that go into the statute of limitations for each case, so the sooner you seek the guidance of an Orange County wrongful death lawyer, the better your chances at securing maximum compensation for your loss.
Why It’s Important to Hire an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
Lawsuits take a great deal of time, energy and attention. 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 wrongful death claim can sometimes take more than a year from when 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 any given claim will be resolved, but hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney is the best way to obtain fair compensation promptly.
You have enough to worry about just trying to heal from the grievous loss you have experienced. Don’t take on even more stress by trying to file a lawsuit on your own. Having a good lawyer during this difficult time is the best thing you can do to ensure that your family is able to get some closure while they find a way to heal and move on from this terrible tragedy.
Choose An Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer From Beckerman Anderson
The success of our team is the result of diligence and experience, a desire for justice, and relentless advocacy for the people of our community. The Orange County wrongful death lawyers from Beckerman Anderson offer our clients:
- Considerate and attentive service
- Skilled and dependable legal representation
- Open communication with regular updates
- Relentless work toward getting you the maximum compensation to which you are entitled
At Beckerman Anderson, we want to alleviate you and your family of as much stress during this time as possible. We want you to focus on your family’s well-being and healing journey. Let us handle the court and insurance companies.
At the law firm of Beckerman Anderson, we will make things easier for you by:
- Handling all communications with the court, the defense and the insurance company
- Thoroughly investigating the events surrounding the death of your family member
- Gathering all relevant evidence
- Determining and pursuing all possible avenues of recovery
- Negotiating with the insurance company to ensure you receive an equitable wrongful death settlement
- Taking your claim to court in the event the insurance company refuses to pay what your wrongful death claim is worth
What Evidence Is Needed to Prove Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death cases tend to be complicated, especially when it comes to establishing fault. If you can prove that another person’s negligence was the cause of the death, you probably have a valid wrongful death case. But you must be able to prove all of the following four elements in order to determine fault:
The claimant will have to show that the person who died was owed a duty of care by the respondent. For example, in the workplace, the employer would be required to provide a safe work environment for their employees. In auto accidents, all drivers on the road are expected to operate their vehicles as safely as possible and follow all traffic laws.
Once it has been established that a duty of care existed at the time of the incident, the claimant will then have to show that this duty was violated by the respondent. For example, in a fatal car accident, if you can prove that the respondent was speeding or driving under the influence, that is proof that they violated their duty of care to drive safely and responsibly on the road.
The third element that must be proven is causation, meaning you have to effectively establish that the respondent’s violation of duty was the immediate cause of your family member’s death. In other words, you can’t leave any question about whether the death was because of the negligence or misconduct of the defendant.
Lastly, for your wrongful death claim to be successful, you will have to show that the accident and subsequent death caused you to incur financial and emotional damages. This is often the easiest element to prove, using documents like medical bills to show the expenses that arose as a result of the fatal incident.
What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Regular Accident Claim?
Wrongful death claims arising from the negligence or misconduct 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 brings the claim, because they are still alive to do so. However, in a wrongful death claim, as discussed above, there are certain identified people who can bring the claim. This is because, when someone dies due to the negligence of another, the law allows for their survivors to still pursue a wrongful death 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 the financial losses that the survivor, often the spouse, experience, such as:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The financial support provided by the decedent
- The value of household services that that decedent would have provided
- The loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support
These losses can sometimes be difficult to calculate. Financial support often involves complex calculations based on previous earnings, education, and life expectancy. Likewise, the value of love and companionship is difficult to put a price tag on. That is why it is so important to have an experienced wrongful death attorney review your case. If you are in Orange County and need an attorney because your loved one was killed due to the negligence of someone else, please do not hesitate to give us a call as soon as possible. We want to help you get through this.
How long should you wait to bring a wrongful death 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. It can take a long time, often years, to move through the grieving process and get to a place where you feel you can focus on the situation with a clear mind.
Time is unfortunately of the essence in wrongful death cases, though. 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.
That’s why it’s important not to put off contacting an attorney. Two years may sound like a long time but it goes by incredibly fast. For situations like the ones described above, you may have even less time than you think to seek compensation for the damages you face and hold the negligent party responsible for their actions.
Therefore, while it is important to grieve, it is also important to not delay in seeking the advice of an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney. In fact, hiring a lawyer early on after the incident occurs will give you more time to focus on grieving and healing, since your attorney will be navigating the complex waters of pursuing your claim. You should not have to go through this alone.
Remember, if you wait too long, your claim could be barred by law due to the various statutes of limitations that might apply to your specific situation.
Who is Liable for Paying for Legal Services in a Wrongful Death Suit?
Most people who are considering filing a wrongful death suit wonder how they can possibly afford to file a wrongful death claim after experiencing such a major emotional and financial blow. In the field of personal injury law, which includes wrongful death matters, the plaintiff’s attorney typically covers any expenditures associated with investigating and filing a wrongful death claim. The attorney then recoups these costs from the final jury verdict or settlement award.
In other words, you don’t pay a dime to your attorney until you win a satisfactory settlement. The payment for legal and other fees associated with pursuing your claim will be recouped from the final settlement, when you receive your payment.
Who Pays the Settlement Award?
A lot of people are also curious as to who actually pays the final settlement amount. You may have concerns that the person who caused the death does not have the funds to pay enough to cover all of the damages that you are owed. In most cases, the person you are suing has insurance, like in the case of an auto accident.
Generally in wrongful death cases, the defendant’s insurance provider is responsible for the payout. This is almost always the case when a single person is liable for your family member’s death. If, however, the liable party is a government agency or a business, then that agency or business is responsible for paying you. In some instances, their insurance company may pay a share of the overall settlement.
A seasoned lawyer can help you find out what the limits of the defendant’s insurance policy actually is. Sometimes their insurance has limits below what you actually are seeking. This is one piece of information you should find out as early as possible when pursuing a wrongful death claim.
Who is Awarded the Settlement Funds?
For the most part, the state of California leaves the splitting of the settlement award up to the deceased’s surviving relatives. Most of the time, families are able to figure it out amongst themselves based on their unique situation.
Sometimes, the surviving family members agree to divide the settlement award equally and leave it at that. Oftentimes, however, one member of the family was more dependent on the lost loved one than another. For instance, a 12-year-old child would have been more monetarily dependent on a deceased parent than their 28-year-old sibling. In this case, the family might not choose to distribute the money evenly but based on an individual’s needs instead.
If the surviving heirs cannot reach a consensus as to the fairest way to apportion the settlement award, the court may make that decision for them. It is always best to work it out as a family if you can, but when that isn’t possible, there are laws in place to ensure that the proper party or parties are being compensated fairly.
Survival Action vs. Wrongful Death
A survival action is a separate claim that is sometimes brought by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. The best way to describe this type of claim is to say that it is the lawsuit the deceased person would have filed had they survived. So in order to bring a survival action, the person who passed away has to have lived for some period of time after the injury before they died.
This type of claim is generally to claim medical expenses that were incurred during that period of time between injury and death. Punitive damages, which are sometimes awarded in cases where the defendant acted particularly maliciously, can also be awarded in a survival action.
There are a few significant differences between a survival action and a wrongful death claim. They are as follows:
A survival claim is filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate whereas a wrongful death claim is filed by the surviving family members of the deceased, such as their wife, husband, or children, which is often not the same person as the estate representative.
The goal of a survival action is to financially compensate the deceased person’s estate. The goal of a wrongful death suit is to financially compensate the family members of the accident victim for the loss they have endured.
A survival claim may only be filed if the injured person lived for a length of time after their accident before they succumbed to their injuries and passed away. A claim of wrongful death, on the other hand, can be filed in any situation a person dies due to another person’s wrongful conduct.
If both the survival action and the wrongful death claim are filed because of the same incident, they can be consolidated into one lawsuit.
According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, the damages available for a survival claim are limited “to the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover, had the decedent lived”. Survival actions do not include damages for disfigurement, pain, or suffering. In a wrongful death suit, the claimant is entitled to pursue financial compensation for the loss of the accident victim’s fellowship and love.
In California, punitive damages are obtainable in a survival action but are not attainable in a wrongful death suit. This is why in many cases, a survival action and a wrongful death suit both get filed for the same incident. This is one of the ways that wrongful death lawyers ensure maximum compensation is awarded when an untimely death occurs due to someone else’s negligence.
It is easy to see how these two claims can easily become complicated and rather confusing, which is just one of the many reasons you should work with an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney to help you navigate the successful filing of these kinds of claims.
Orange County Wrongful Death Statistics
Even though the death rate in Orange County tends to be lower than in many other parts of the country, it is still troubling. In 2017, in Orange County, CA, there were more than 260 fatal car accidents alone.
In Orange County, men are more than two times as likely as women to be killed in a motor vehicle accident. This statistic is on par with statewide and nationwide statistics.
About 34% of all motor vehicle fatalities involve at least one driver who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and a nearly identical amount of motor vehicle fatalities are caused by speeding.
How Long Will It Take To Resolve My Orange County Wrongful Death Suit?
One of the primary factors in the length of time that your Orange County wrongful death suit takes to resolve is the manner in which the resolution is reached. For instance, if the case is solved through a settlement, it could reach its conclusion fairly quickly, possibly even in less than a year. Settling a case, even without it going to trial, still takes time, but usually not as long as a complete trial does. This is due to the fact that, in order for your case to be successful, your lawyer has to piece together a convincing argument, one that is stronger than the argument presented by the other side.
If your case does end up going to trial, the average length these take to resolve in California is about three years, but it could take even longer.
Working with an Orange County wrongful death lawyer who also has extensive experience as a trial attorney is the best thing you could do to resolve your claim with the most favorable outcome possible. Not every personal injury lawyer has previous trial experience. Working with an attorney who has no prior trial experience could force you to have to switch lawyers mid-case, which is far from ideal.
Call our experienced lawyers at Beckerman Anderson today at 949-409-4299 to see how we can help you win compensation for the loss your family has suffered.
Do Most Orange County Wrongful Death Cases Go To Trial?
The short answer is no. The majority of Orange County, CA wrongful death cases are settled before trial. An estimated 4% of all wrongful death cases in Orange County actually reach the trial phase.
If a fair and legitimate settlement offer is made by the defense, the case will almost always settle. It is only when an agreement absolutely cannot be reached by both sides that a wrongful death case proceeds to trial where the total amount of damages will be decided by a jury.
Will the Defendant Go to Jail?
A common question we hear from family members is why the person who is responsible for their loved one’s death is not in jail. There can be many reasons for this, and sometimes the offending person does actually end up in jail, but that will never be because of a wrongful death lawsuit. A lawsuit is pursued in civil court, which can only award financial compensation for a person’s responsibility related to a death. It is the criminal court that sentences prison time for crimes, which is completely separate from civil court.
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 to a jury that a person is criminally liable.
That means that sometimes, the defendant will have both criminal charges and a civil lawsuit filed against them. But even in the case where there are no criminal charges for whatever reason, a person can still be sued in civil court for wrongful death. Even when both types of cases are pursued against one person, they will be handled completely separately, by different legal teams.
In a civil case, the deceased person’s family needs only to be able to prove that more likely than not, the person’s negligence caused the death. Furthermore, negligence usually 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 may not pursue any criminal charges because it was an honest accident. On the other hand, if the driver was intoxicated and especially if they had a history of DUIs, then serious criminal charges would be far more likely 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. A civil lawsuit is another avenue to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
Trust a Wrongful Death Firm with Decades of Experience
The attorneys at Beckerman Anderson have decades of combined experience in handling wrongful death claims in California. We’ve handled numerous types of vehicle accidents, including commercial vehicle accidents, tractor-trailer accidents, head-on collisions, accidents caused by DUI drivers, and other types of wrongful death cases as well. Contact our Orange County wrongful death attorneys at 949-409-4299 to speak with one of our attorneys at no cost to you.
Our Firm Is Prepared to Take Insurance Companies to Trial
Insurance companies know which lawyers in California are willing and prepared to take them to trial to obtain fair compensation for their clients. This can make a huge difference in how much compensation they offer during initial settlement negotiations.
To ensure that you obtain the compensation you deserve, it is critical to obtain a trial lawyer to handle your car accident claim. You deserve a lawyer who will not shy away from taking your case to court, should the need to do so arise during the course of the settlement process.
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 plaintiffs (survivors) is unprepared to proceed to trial, they are less likely to promptly pay the fair value of a claim. Law firms in the industry tend to build reputations that are known to the insurance adjusters who agree to settle these types of claims, so it is imperative that you select a law firm with a stellar reputation for aggressive and impeccable legal action throughout the entire process from the date of your first consultation all the way until the final settlement or court awarded compensation is paid out.
If someone you love passed away due to the negligence of someone else, you should strongly consider filing a wrongful death claim. Contact one of our experienced attorneys today to get more information about how this process applies to your unique situation.
Remember, your initial consultation with our Orange County wrongful death lawyer is free, and you will never pay for our legal services unless we win your case. Make the call today and get the support you deserve in dealing with this matter. If someone else is responsible for the death of your family member, that person or entity should be held accountable. Let us help you bring closure to this tragedy by fighting for the compensation that you and your family are rightfully owed.
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