Orange County Injury Lawyer | Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney

Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney

With Offices in Huntington Beach

Do you need legal help?

    Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney

    With Offices in Huntington Beach

    Do you need legal help?

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      Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney

      Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances. When the person you’ve lost was taken from you due to negligence, however, you have the right to seek compensation.

      If you’re reading this, you may have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent behavior. You probably feel as though you’re drowning in grief. You may have lost your source of financial support, turning your life upside-down. You’re probably looking for someone to give you answers about a wrongful death claim.

      We are here to help. Our firm offers free legal consultations. Call our Orange County wrongful death attorney today.

      Don’t worry about paying for the answers you need upfront. Just give us a call as soon as you can and schedule a free legal consultation.

      The information that you’ll find below will help you understand your wrongful death claim. We’ll start with the many ways you can accidentally ruin your claim. Then, we’ll share a client story to provide more information. Please read to the end to learn as much as possible.

      Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

      According to California law, the following parties can file a wrongful death claim:

      • A surviving spouse of the deceased person, a domestic partner, and children of the deceased. If there are no surviving descendants of the deceased, then the spouse or partner would be entitled to the estate.
      • If the deceased is under the age of 18 and the parents are deceased, then the guardian of the deceased child can file a wrongful death claim.
      • A spouse, children of the spouse, stepchildren, parents, or legal guardian could file a claim if they were dependent on the deceased.
      • If a minor has lived with the deceased for 180 days prior, they are able to file a wrongful death claim.

      Hopefully, the deceased had made a will or given someone the power of attorney before their passing had occurred, but if not, these laws will suffice for those who can file a wrongful death claim and receive benefits. A skilled and professional wrongful death lawyer at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates can help determine if you have eligibility since they have studied the local laws.

      Common Causes of Wrongful Death

      There are a few ways in which a person can file a wrongful death claim.

      Intentional Acts

      The most common example of an intentional wrongful death action can be when someone intentionally kills another person. If your loved one was murdered, the suspect would be charged with a felony and go through a criminal court case for the intentional act. A wrongful death claim is filed to get compensation for losses that the survivors suffer from and a criminal case is to punish the offenders who do criminal acts.

      Car Accidents

      If someone close to you dies due to a driver’s negligence, then you can file a wrongful death claim against the driver. In California, vehicular manslaughter can cause the driver to get anywhere from a year to six years in prison. Of course, opening up a wrongful death case will be separate from the criminal charges brought against the driver. Some examples of being negligent can include driving while intoxicated, not following the road laws, and driving recklessly.

      Medical Malpractice

      The wrongful death of a person can happen due to a doctor’s negligence or medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is when a doctor does not treat a patient with the standard of care. The standard of care is the treatment that is accepted by doctors and medical professionals as the proper way to take care of patients. When doctors do not provide the sufficient standard of care it can result in an injury, improper medication, improper diagnosis, or premature discharge. If a loved one was a victim of any of these, then a personal injury law firm can help get you the compensation owed to you.

      Medical Malpractice
      Source: https://thelegalhelpers.com/blog-post/top-10-medical-malpractice-statistics-you-should-know/

      Defective Items

      If a loved one dies due to a defective product, you are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer or the party responsible for the defect. Defective products can be pharmaceutical products, defective automobiles, or toxic foods. Of course, a wrongful death lawyer can help you gather evidence and file your claim.

      Pedestrian Accident

      A pedestrian accident can occur when a person walks on crosswalks or public streets and a vehicle collides with them. Your personal injury lawyer will help you gather the evidence that proves your loved one died due to the driver hitting them and help you file a wrongful death claim.

      Airplane Accidents

      Although it is rare, wrongful death can occur due to an airplane accident. The airplane accident can occur due to the plane malfunctioning or due to pilot error. If the pilot survives the accident and is at fault, your personal injury lawyer can file a claim against the pilot for your loss, but the fault could also be with the airplane manufacturer, airline, or air traffic controllers.

      Compensation for Losses

      Certain damages can occur in a wrongful death event that allow you to receive compensation for your loss.

      • If the deceased person experienced pain and suffering before their wrongful death. Pain and suffering can include psychological or emotional stress that happened due to the accident.
      • The medical costs that happened before the death of the person. Medical expenses can include the ambulance ride to the hospital or any measures taken by a doctor and staff to try and save the person’s life.
      • Damages also include the funeral and burial expenses of the loved one.
      • There can be loss due to income from the person passing away. For example, a stay-at-home mom may feel the financial burden of a husband passing due to wrongful death.
      • The value of services that the deceased would have performed.
      • Compensation can be given for the loss of care, nurturing, or guidance that the existing family members would have received if the person had lived.
      • As a result of a family member dying, compensation can be owed for loss of companionship and love.

      Now that we understand how wrongful death claims work, we can discuss the process your experienced personal injury lawyer will take to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family members.

      Going through a loss can be difficult, and having to go through a wrongful death lawsuit can make it feel even more difficult; but justice is needed. Therefore, it is essential to contact a Huntington Beach personal injury law firm like Timothy J. Ryan & Associates today to request a free case evaluation and discuss how we can help you proceed in your personal injury case.

      Common Wrongful Death Claim Mistakes

      There are a number of ways you can damage the value of your wrongful death claim. Please read through the common mistakes people make to minimize your potential for making these same errors.

      Assuming You Have No Claim

      Many people miss out on compensation that could have helped to support their family and covered funeral and burial expenses simply because they make the assumption that they have no case. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you asses your specific situation and guide you as to whether or not you have a claim.

      If you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related accident, a lawyer can also advise you as to whether you should accept a worker’s compensation payout or file a wrongful death claim instead.

      Arguing with family

      The inherently stressful combination of losing a loved one and filing a claim for compensation often creates tensions within the family. During such a painful time, it’s important to be as patient as possible with your family members. Try to give their motives the benefit of the doubt when questions about the claim arise. Fighting and accusing one another of trying to steal from the family can lead to damaged relationships and also damage to your claim.

      This is an extremely challenging, emotionally-charged time. Try to remember that any breakdown in communication will only benefit the insurance company. The more of a united front you present, the stronger your claim will be.

      Speaking About the Incident Publicly

      When dealing with a family member’s death, it’s natural to want to vent painful feelings and share your grief with those close to you. It’s important, however, to make sure you are careful about the people with whom you share.

      Speaking publicly about the accident or situation on social media or in a media interview can harm your claim. Under public scrutiny, anything you say could inadvertently minimize the level of negligence the guilty party is responsible for. It could also damage the credibility of the person who was killed.

      Reducing accident events to soundbites may make for great television, but it often fails to provide enough context to represent the situation accurately. The last thing you want to do is say anything publicly the insurance company can use as your “testimony” of fact.

      Remember, the insurance company is going to be looking for ways to save money. The more information you put out into the world, the more material they have to try and use against you.

      Agreeing to Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement

      Like speaking to the media, speaking to the insurance company can harm your claim. As mentioned above, they will be scrutinizing anything you say, looking for information that can be used to lower the value of your claim.

      You may believe you must speak to the insurance company to get the claim processed. This is not true.

      You have the right to decline communications when your attorney is not present. Insurance adjusters are very good at getting information out of vulnerable people. Don’t give them the chance to get you talking. This is one call you’re better off delegating to your Orange County wrongful death attorney.

      Not Hiring an Attorney

      One of the best ways to avoid mistakes is by hiring an attorney rather than handling the wrongful death claim of your loved one by yourself.

      Hiring an attorney will ensure that all responsible parties are included in your claim.

      Wrongful death claims are usually complicated. An experienced attorney can help you assess whether liability stops with the most obviously responsible party.

      For example, in an accident in which a train jumps the tracks and crashes, is the engineer driving the train responsible? Even if that is true, the train line may bear some responsibility for failure to train or drug test their engineers. Even if that is also true, the manufacturer of the signaling system may hold some culpability.

      An experienced wrongful death attorney will help you assess all parties who bear responsibility in the accident that has taken your loved one from you.

      Hiring an attorney will also help you accurately assess your damages.

      When a loved one is taken from you due to the carelessness or negligence of another person, you can easily lack the objectivity to make choices in your own best interests. Someone with experience in wrongful death claims can objectively assess what your damages are.

      Without experience and objectivity, you may miss ways in which you deserve to be compensated. A skilled Orange County wrongful death attorney can make sure you don’t leave “money on the table,” when negotiating a settlement.

      Hiring a lawyer will protect you from insurance company tactics.

      Experienced wrongful death attorneys will be alert to the tactics the insurance company may use on an unsuspecting loved one of the decedent. One example of these tactics is wearing down the person filing the claim through delays and claim denials.

      They more the insurance company wears you down, the more you’re likely to give in and agree to a lowball settlement offer. A wrongful death attorney is going to make sure your damages include compensation to cover funeral and burial expenses.

      Having a lawyer between you and the insurance company protects your claim’s value because your attorney will know how to handle these tactics.

      In addition to the benefits listed above, hiring a qualified Orange County wrongful death attorney will put you in the position to sue the insurance company if they fail to agree to a reasonable and fair settlement. Without a lawyer, the insurance company knows you aren’t likely to take your case to court.

      Failing to Hire a Lawyer as Soon as Possible

      Once you realize all the reasons you will benefit from hiring a wrongful death attorney, it’s critical not to delay in retaining one.

      Even if the statute of limitations for filing gives you a year or two to file, you must remember that the evidence to support your claim will disappear well before you hit the filing deadline. Give your attorney the best chance at collecting evidence and speaking to witnesses by getting started as soon as possible.

      Hiring the Wrong Attorney

      It’s unfortunate that when it comes time to hiring an attorney, many people make the mistake of believing any lawyer can deliver the same results as any other.

      Like surgeons, lawyers often focus on specific practice areas. You wouldn’t turn to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to operate on your heart. You shouldn’t look to anyone who doesn’t have a record of success handling wrongful death cases to take on your claim.

      Additionally, make sure you hire a trial lawyer. While most wrongful death claims are settled before they end up in front of a jury, some need to go to court to bring you the compensation you deserve. If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement for the damages you’ve suffered, you need an attorney who can win your case in court.

      Wrongful Death Case

      Here are the steps taken by a personal injury lawyer in a wrongful death case.

      1) Identifying the Negligent Party

      The accused party must be negligent or perform an intentional act to be charged with a personal injury case. Therefore, it is necessary to correctly identify the at-fault party.

      2) Gather Evidence

      Your personal injury lawyer can identify and gather evidence to prove the liability of the at-fault party. In the state of California, if the deceased is found negligent in any way, it can lower your compensation. Therefore, we gather evidence from police officers, witness testimonies, and even professionals about how the wrongful death occurred to help bolster your case.

      3) File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

      If the responsible party’s insurance company will not accept an offer made by you and your personal injury lawyer, then your lawyer will help you draft a formal complaint to the court. The complaint will include information like the date and time of the death, the cause of death, and the amount of compensation you are owed.

      4) Mediation

      The next step in the process is called mediation. This is when a mediator oversees negotiations between the two parties so that they can hopefully reach an agreement. But, in the rare event that both parties cannot come to an agreement then the wrongful death case will go to trial.

      5) Trial

      In the trial phase, each side will argue their side of the case, and your lawyer will argue why you deserve the compensation owed to you. At the end of the trial, a judge or jury will determine if your lawyer has made a substantial enough argument to receive the compensation owed.

      A wrongful death claim can be a lengthy and grueling process, but a trial is rare since most cases are settled out of court. A professional and experienced lawyer will help you receive compensation and represent you in a trial, if necessary.

      Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney

      Losing a loved one is devastating under any circumstances. When the person you’ve lost was taken from you due to negligence, however, you have the right to seek compensation.

      If you’re reading this, you may have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent behavior. You probably feel as though you’re drowning in grief. You may have lost your source of financial support, turning your life upside-down. You’re probably looking for someone to give you answers about a wrongful death claim.

      We are here to help. Our firm offers free legal consultations. Call our Orange County wrongful death attorney today.

      Don’t worry about paying for the answers you need upfront. Just give us a call as soon as you can and schedule a free legal consultation.

      The information that you’ll find below will help you understand your wrongful death claim. We’ll start with the many ways you can accidentally ruin your claim. Then, we’ll share a client story to provide more information. Please read to the end to learn as much as possible.

      Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

      According to California law, the following parties can file a wrongful death claim:

      • A surviving spouse of the deceased person, a domestic partner, and children of the deceased. If there are no surviving descendants of the deceased, then the spouse or partner would be entitled to the estate.
      • If the deceased is under the age of 18 and the parents are deceased, then the guardian of the deceased child can file a wrongful death claim.
      • A spouse, children of the spouse, stepchildren, parents, or legal guardian could file a claim if they were dependent on the deceased.
      • If a minor has lived with the deceased for 180 days prior, they are able to file a wrongful death claim.

      Hopefully, the deceased had made a will or given someone the power of attorney before their passing had occurred, but if not, these laws will suffice for those who can file a wrongful death claim and receive benefits. A skilled and professional wrongful death lawyer at Timothy J. Ryan & Associates can help determine if you have eligibility since they have studied the local laws.

      Common Causes of Wrongful Death

      There are a few ways in which a person can file a wrongful death claim.

      Intentional Acts

      The most common example of an intentional wrongful death action can be when someone intentionally kills another person. If your loved one was murdered, the suspect would be charged with a felony and go through a criminal court case for the intentional act. A wrongful death claim is filed to get compensation for losses that the survivors suffer from and a criminal case is to punish the offenders who do criminal acts.

      Car Accidents

      If someone close to you dies due to a driver’s negligence, then you can file a wrongful death claim against the driver. In California, vehicular manslaughter can cause the driver to get anywhere from a year to six years in prison. Of course, opening up a wrongful death case will be separate from the criminal charges brought against the driver. Some examples of being negligent can include driving while intoxicated, not following the road laws, and driving recklessly.

      Medical Malpractice

      The wrongful death of a person can happen due to a doctor’s negligence or medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is when a doctor does not treat a patient with the standard of care. The standard of care is the treatment that is accepted by doctors and medical professionals as the proper way to take care of patients. When doctors do not provide the sufficient standard of care it can result in an injury, improper medication, improper diagnosis, or premature discharge. If a loved one was a victim of any of these, then a personal injury law firm can help get you the compensation owed to you.

      Medical Malpractice
      Source: https://thelegalhelpers.com/blog-post/top-10-medical-malpractice-statistics-you-should-know/

      Defective Items

      If a loved one dies due to a defective product, you are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer or the party responsible for the defect. Defective products can be pharmaceutical products, defective automobiles, or toxic foods. Of course, a wrongful death lawyer can help you gather evidence and file your claim.

      Pedestrian Accident

      A pedestrian accident can occur when a person walks on crosswalks or public streets and a vehicle collides with them. Your personal injury lawyer will help you gather the evidence that proves your loved one died due to the driver hitting them and help you file a wrongful death claim.

      Airplane Accidents

      Although it is rare, wrongful death can occur due to an airplane accident. The airplane accident can occur due to the plane malfunctioning or due to pilot error. If the pilot survives the accident and is at fault, your personal injury lawyer can file a claim against the pilot for your loss, but the fault could also be with the airplane manufacturer, airline, or air traffic controllers.

      Compensation for Losses

      Certain damages can occur in a wrongful death event that allow you to receive compensation for your loss.

      • If the deceased person experienced pain and suffering before their wrongful death. Pain and suffering can include psychological or emotional stress that happened due to the accident.
      • The medical costs that happened before the death of the person. Medical expenses can include the ambulance ride to the hospital or any measures taken by a doctor and staff to try and save the person’s life.
      • Damages also include the funeral and burial expenses of the loved one.
      • There can be loss due to income from the person passing away. For example, a stay-at-home mom may feel the financial burden of a husband passing due to wrongful death.
      • The value of services that the deceased would have performed.
      • Compensation can be given for the loss of care, nurturing, or guidance that the existing family members would have received if the person had lived.
      • As a result of a family member dying, compensation can be owed for loss of companionship and love.

      Now that we understand how wrongful death claims work, we can discuss the process your experienced personal injury lawyer will take to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family members.

      Going through a loss can be difficult, and having to go through a wrongful death lawsuit can make it feel even more difficult; but justice is needed. Therefore, it is essential to contact a Huntington Beach personal injury law firm like Timothy J. Ryan & Associates today to request a free case evaluation and discuss how we can help you proceed in your personal injury case.

      Common Wrongful Death Claim Mistakes

      There are a number of ways you can damage the value of your wrongful death claim. Please read through the common mistakes people make to minimize your potential for making these same errors.

      Assuming You Have No Claim

      Many people miss out on compensation that could have helped to support their family and covered funeral and burial expenses simply because they make the assumption that they have no case. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you asses your specific situation and guide you as to whether or not you have a claim.

      If you’ve lost a loved one in a work-related accident, a lawyer can also advise you as to whether you should accept a worker’s compensation payout or file a wrongful death claim instead.

      Arguing with family

      The inherently stressful combination of losing a loved one and filing a claim for compensation often creates tensions within the family. During such a painful time, it’s important to be as patient as possible with your family members. Try to give their motives the benefit of the doubt when questions about the claim arise. Fighting and accusing one another of trying to steal from the family can lead to damaged relationships and also damage to your claim.

      This is an extremely challenging, emotionally-charged time. Try to remember that any breakdown in communication will only benefit the insurance company. The more of a united front you present, the stronger your claim will be.

      Speaking About the Incident Publicly

      When dealing with a family member’s death, it’s natural to want to vent painful feelings and share your grief with those close to you. It’s important, however, to make sure you are careful about the people with whom you share.

      Speaking publicly about the accident or situation on social media or in a media interview can harm your claim. Under public scrutiny, anything you say could inadvertently minimize the level of negligence the guilty party is responsible for. It could also damage the credibility of the person who was killed.

      Reducing accident events to soundbites may make for great television, but it often fails to provide enough context to represent the situation accurately. The last thing you want to do is say anything publicly the insurance company can use as your “testimony” of fact.

      Remember, the insurance company is going to be looking for ways to save money. The more information you put out into the world, the more material they have to try and use against you.

      Agreeing to Give the Insurance Company a Recorded Statement

      Like speaking to the media, speaking to the insurance company can harm your claim. As mentioned above, they will be scrutinizing anything you say, looking for information that can be used to lower the value of your claim.

      You may believe you must speak to the insurance company to get the claim processed. This is not true.

      You have the right to decline communications when your attorney is not present. Insurance adjusters are very good at getting information out of vulnerable people. Don’t give them the chance to get you talking. This is one call you’re better off delegating to your Orange County wrongful death attorney.

      Not Hiring an Attorney

      One of the best ways to avoid mistakes is by hiring an attorney rather than handling the wrongful death claim of your loved one by yourself.

      Hiring an attorney will ensure that all responsible parties are included in your claim.

      Wrongful death claims are usually complicated. An experienced attorney can help you assess whether liability stops with the most obviously responsible party.

      For example, in an accident in which a train jumps the tracks and crashes, is the engineer driving the train responsible? Even if that is true, the train line may bear some responsibility for failure to train or drug test their engineers. Even if that is also true, the manufacturer of the signaling system may hold some culpability.

      An experienced wrongful death attorney will help you assess all parties who bear responsibility in the accident that has taken your loved one from you.

      Hiring an attorney will also help you accurately assess your damages.

      When a loved one is taken from you due to the carelessness or negligence of another person, you can easily lack the objectivity to make choices in your own best interests. Someone with experience in wrongful death claims can objectively assess what your damages are.

      Without experience and objectivity, you may miss ways in which you deserve to be compensated. A skilled Orange County wrongful death attorney can make sure you don’t leave “money on the table,” when negotiating a settlement.

      Hiring a lawyer will protect you from insurance company tactics.

      Experienced wrongful death attorneys will be alert to the tactics the insurance company may use on an unsuspecting loved one of the decedent. One example of these tactics is wearing down the person filing the claim through delays and claim denials.

      They more the insurance company wears you down, the more you’re likely to give in and agree to a lowball settlement offer. A wrongful death attorney is going to make sure your damages include compensation to cover funeral and burial expenses.

      Having a lawyer between you and the insurance company protects your claim’s value because your attorney will know how to handle these tactics.

      In addition to the benefits listed above, hiring a qualified Orange County wrongful death attorney will put you in the position to sue the insurance company if they fail to agree to a reasonable and fair settlement. Without a lawyer, the insurance company knows you aren’t likely to take your case to court.

      Failing to Hire a Lawyer as Soon as Possible

      Once you realize all the reasons you will benefit from hiring a wrongful death attorney, it’s critical not to delay in retaining one.

      Even if the statute of limitations for filing gives you a year or two to file, you must remember that the evidence to support your claim will disappear well before you hit the filing deadline. Give your attorney the best chance at collecting evidence and speaking to witnesses by getting started as soon as possible.

      Hiring the Wrong Attorney

      It’s unfortunate that when it comes time to hiring an attorney, many people make the mistake of believing any lawyer can deliver the same results as any other.

      Like surgeons, lawyers often focus on specific practice areas. You wouldn’t turn to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to operate on your heart. You shouldn’t look to anyone who doesn’t have a record of success handling wrongful death cases to take on your claim.

      Additionally, make sure you hire a trial lawyer. While most wrongful death claims are settled before they end up in front of a jury, some need to go to court to bring you the compensation you deserve. If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement for the damages you’ve suffered, you need an attorney who can win your case in court.

      Wrongful Death Case

      Here are the steps taken by a personal injury lawyer in a wrongful death case.

      1) Identifying the Negligent Party

      The accused party must be negligent or perform an intentional act to be charged with a personal injury case. Therefore, it is necessary to correctly identify the at-fault party.

      2) Gather Evidence

      Your personal injury lawyer can identify and gather evidence to prove the liability of the at-fault party. In the state of California, if the deceased is found negligent in any way, it can lower your compensation. Therefore, we gather evidence from police officers, witness testimonies, and even professionals about how the wrongful death occurred to help bolster your case.

      3) File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

      If the responsible party’s insurance company will not accept an offer made by you and your personal injury lawyer, then your lawyer will help you draft a formal complaint to the court. The complaint will include information like the date and time of the death, the cause of death, and the amount of compensation you are owed.

      4) Mediation

      The next step in the process is called mediation. This is when a mediator oversees negotiations between the two parties so that they can hopefully reach an agreement. But, in the rare event that both parties cannot come to an agreement then the wrongful death case will go to trial.

      5) Trial

      In the trial phase, each side will argue their side of the case, and your lawyer will argue why you deserve the compensation owed to you. At the end of the trial, a judge or jury will determine if your lawyer has made a substantial enough argument to receive the compensation owed.

      A wrongful death claim can be a lengthy and grueling process, but a trial is rare since most cases are settled out of court. A professional and experienced lawyer will help you receive compensation and represent you in a trial, if necessary.

      Orange County Wrongful Death Client Story

      On a warm September morning not so long ago, Oliver Sinclair woke up in the guestroom of his Mesa Verde, California home feeling that something had shifted inside.

      He took a hot shower, and wiping away the condensation on the mirror, said to the sad-eyed man looking back at him, “Today is the day.”

      In truth, Oliver had been working up to this since his wife Helen’s death last November. He just hadn’t been ready. Rattling around his house alone for eight months, he rarely even turned on enough lights to alert passersby that anyone was home.

      He lived on soup, mostly, straight out of the can. Since he didn’t have the energy to microwave it, all he needed was a spoon. Cold soup was enough.

      Helen had never been a picky eater. Whenever he’d fuss over a meal, she’d just wave him off, saying, “it all goes to the same place, anyway, Olly.”

      His granddaughter, Ruth, had worried about him since Helen’s passing. He’d always been close to Ruthie.

      She’d tried to come and help him pack up the remainder of her grandmother’s things after the rest of the family had sifted through them. Oliver’s daughter, Sara, had given up trying to get her dad past his grief. But Ruthie was still there, pitching in.

      Thinking back, Oliver remembered when Ruth had tried to help one day by bringing over dozens of flattened boxes. She’d popped one together in his foyer and turned to the stairs. He’d beaten her to the bedroom.

      It was as close to angry as she’d ever seen him. Oliver had actually blocked her from opening the door to her grandmother’s side of the closet with his body. You’d think he was trying to keep her from taking his wife herself.

      “Papa,” Ruth had said through tears, “They’re just clothes. You’re living in the guest room. Let me help you move on.”

      Oliver would hear none of it. He’d really had his dander up, even accusing her of traipsing over her grandmother’s grave.

      She’d let him rant, understanding the need. At least he wasn’t the silent ghost he’d been for months. When he’d finally run out of words, she took a chance and hugged him. At first, he jumped with the surprise of it, but then she felt him relax. His shoulders shook and he cried.

      “I’m not ready, I’m not ready,” he choked.

      “It’s okay, Papa, I’m sorry. I love you,” Ruth said into his shoulder. She’d left him there, sitting on the bed in the dark.

      Two months later, Ruth discovered she was pregnant with her first child. Ruth and her husband, Ben, were overjoyed; they’d been told for years that Ruth couldn’t conceive. They were actually considering adoption when Ruth became pregnant. She and Ben decided to name the baby Helen Olivia, in honor of Oliver and his wife.

      The impending birth of the baby somehow broke through the fog of Oliver’s grief when nothing else could. It was time.

      He entered the bedroom he’d shared with his wife and turned on the light. Two dozen boxes stood folded in the corner where Ruth had left them months ago. His hands shook with the folding of the first box, but he found a rhythm to the work, and before he knew it, he had a dozen boxes constructed. They sat on the carpet and the bed and the dresser, silently waiting to be filled.

      After fifteen minutes, Oliver was surprised to look up and find Helen’s side of the closet empty. He’d expected letting go of Helen’s to make the loss even heavier. But strangely, he felt lighter.

      “Enough progress for one day,” he said, deciding not to push his luck. He carried the boxes downstairs, daring to hope he was finally climbing out of the deep well of depression Helen’s death had left him in.

      Encouraged by the accomplishment, Oliver loaded the boxes into the back of his old Nissan Frontier and drove to the thrift store before he could change his mind.

      On his way home, he made a surprise visit to Ruth’s house to thank her for being there for him. She was elated that he was “coming back to them,” and begged him to stay for dinner.

      “Ben will be home any minute,” she said through tears of joy. “Please, Papa, it’s no trouble. It would mean so much.”

      Oliver agreed. They chatted as she finished preparing the meal. Oliver set the table and asked for another chore. It felt good to be going through a simple family meal ritual beside a loved one. Ruth put him to work making a salad and he set to work, cheerfully peeling carrots and chopping lettuce.

      When the lasagna was ready and the salad decorated the table like a rainbow centerpiece they sat and sipped tea. It was dark now, and Ruth was becoming anxious about Ben’s arrival.

      Oliver did his best to distract her by talking about the baby. It worked beautifully. Ruth’s lovely face glowed with joy as she talked about the nursery, the clothes she’d bought, the plans they’d made. She was so proud of Ben’s success and so grateful he understood her need to be a stay-at-home mom.

      As the clock ticked past six, Oliver asked to see the baby’s room. She eagerly took him on the grand tour. He was marveling at Baby Helen’s marvelous wardrobe when Ruth’s phone rang. She answered it without looking at the I.D., assuming it was Ben. A moment later, she froze, the blood draining from her face.

      Oliver managed to catch his granddaughter before she hit the floor.

      When it happened, Ben was heading west on Adams Ave., less than a mile from home. He was smiling as he crossed the intersection at Brookhurst St., thinking of his wife and the birth of their child. He never saw the drunk driver that slammed into his car.

      Ben was gone.

      Oliver stood by Ruth, helping her as she stumbled through arrangements for the funeral and burial. Through it all, Ruth was in a fog. Her mother tried to reach her. Her stepfather tried, too. Her father even called from Florida and offered to come out. Nothing registered.

      But Oliver was there. He understood. And somewhere deep down in her grief, Ruth clung to that.

      Three weeks after the funeral, Oliver brought his granddaughter to the office of Attorney Timothy J. Ryan & Associates.

      It had taken several attempts to get Ruth to consider a claim. She was still in shock. Oliver was patient.

      “As your Papa, I’m asking you to listen to this man. I understand about not being ready to do this, Ruthie, but the longer you wait, the harder it will be to win a claim. You and Baby Helen deserve to receive compensation for what has happened.

      “Timothy is an experienced wrongful death trial lawyer. If anyone can get you get the compensation you deserve, it’s him.”

      Oliver explained the circumstances of Ben’s death to Mr. Ryan, Ruth nodding confirmation beside him. When he finished, the lawyer confirmed that yes, in all likelihood, Ruth had a legitimate wrongful death claim.

      “A wrongful death claim is filed against a person whose negligence or intentional act has caused the death of someone else,” he explained. “The purpose of the claim is to provide compensation to surviving family members who are negatively impacted by their loved one’s death, usually due to some form of dependency.

      “Damages may be economic, such as loss of income the person was contributing to the family at the time of death, as well as things like future income and retirement contributions that ended because of the death.

      “Damages may also be non-economic, such as a spouse’s loss of companionship and the loss of care, guidance, and nurturing from a parent, among other things.

      “Wrongful death claims usually arise in situations where the victim would have been able to file a personal injury claim due to the accident or incident had they survived. In your husband’s case, Ruth, getting injured by a drunk driver would have qualified him for a personal injury claim.

      “This is just one example of the many ways that a personal injury claim can turn into a wrongful death claim. You were smart to look into it. You and your child deserve to be compensated for the loss you have suffered and the many ways Ben’s death will change your life.

      “You also may have a claim against the bar that gave the drunk driver the alcohol,” Ryan said. “We would look into this should you retain our firm, making sure that all responsible parties are included in your claim.”

      “The local news keeps calling me,” Ruth said, absently rubbing her belly bump. “‘Young, pregnant woman widowed by drunk driver,’” she said ruefully. “They want a story. Could the publicity help my claim?” She asked.

      “I’m glad you asked,” Ryan said. “In actuality, publicity is more likely to harm your claim than help it. It’s best to keep all communications about your claim between you, your immediate family members and your wrongful death attorney. I know it sounds inconceivable, but the news stations are always chasing the next big story. Any drama they can add to your story — real or rumored — could damage your claim.”

      “I can’t imagine how,” Ruth said.

      “I’ve seen it happen too many times. Trust me, avoid social media and don’t answer calls from the press, radio, television— any of it.”

      “Can I file a claim if the guy was arrested?” Ruth asked.

      “Yes, you can. A wrongful death claim is filed in civil court. Have you heard of the O.J. Simpson case?” Ryan asked. Ruth nodded.

      “When Simpson wasn’t convicted on the criminal charges, he was sued in civil court and found liable by a civil jury for an amount that now exceeds $70 million,” said Ryan. “Now, I’m not comparing your case value to that one, but that case is a textbook example of how a person who’s been charged with a crime can be sued civilly.”

      “What about the driver’s insurance company,” Ruth asked. “I should speak to them, right?”

      “Good question, Ruth. Definitely don’t speak to the insurance company. They are not unlike the ‘newsies,’” Ryan said, “in that they are looking for information that will help them. They are worse in a way, because any information you provide that helps them will definitely damage your claim.

      “You aren’t actually required to take calls from the insurance company. I suggest you decline those calls until you’ve chosen a lawyer, then let your wrongful death attorney handle them.

      “Speaking of criteria, when you do retain an attorney, make sure the person is an experienced trail lawyer,” Ryan advised.

      “Most claims are resolved via settlement, but you’re going to want an attorney who will work up your claim as if it’s going before a jury, just in case.

      “Your entire life turned on a dime when Ben was killed. From a practical standpoint alone, there’s no question your small family was financially dependent on his income. You’ll need help replacing the financial support you’ve lost if you hope to stay home with your baby instead of being forced to find a job and leave her in daycare.

      “Add to that the emotional devastation you and the baby will be navigating through in the future and the stakes are far too high not to hire the best attorney you can find.

      “It’s time to fight for the future you’d planned before this tragedy derailed your family,” said Ryan. “I strongly suggest you hire a qualified wrongful death attorney to help you get your life back on track; at least, as much as is possible. Ben certainly would have wanted that.”

      Ruth was satisfied with the information Mr. Ryan gave her in the free consultation. She retained the firm, and we are happy to say that after taking her case to a jury, she was awarded a substantial amount, including punitive damages.

      Call Our Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney Today

      We hope the information here has answered some of your questions about wrongful death claims. Every case is unique, however, so please contact our Orange County wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to schedule a free legal consultation. Let us help you pursue justice and compensation for your loss today.

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