The term wrongful death might seem strange to the average person since any death that was not a result of natural causes would seem to be wrongful to them. However, in legal terms, a wrongful death is a death caused by injuries sustained in a personal injury accident. A personal injury accident is what happens when the negligence of another person causes an accident that leads to an injury. So a car accident caused by someone who was texting while driving would be considered a personal injury, but if someone in the other car dies, then it becomes a wrongful death case.
In a standard personal injury case, the injured person has the right to make an injury claim against the party responsible for the accident, or even pursue a lawsuit if that becomes necessary. But in wrongful death cases, it is the surviving family members of the decedent— the person who died— that must seek compensation to cover the expenses caused by the loss of their loved one. And in order to secure that compensation, they will need the help of a wrongful death attorney.
Timothy J. Ryan is an Orange County wrongful death lawyer who has over forty years of experience in the law. He will use his years of acquired knowledge and experience to help grieving family members in their difficult time. He knows that no amount of money can ever make up for the loss of a loved one, but he will do everything he can to make sure that the surviving family members are financially secure by helping them to file a wrongful death claim. That is why he will negotiate with the insurance company of the party responsible for the wrongful death to make sure that they offer a fair settlement. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, then he will represent the family of the decedent in a court of law. So contact Timothy J. Ryan and Associates if you have suffered a wrongful death in Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, or anywhere in Orange County.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death?
Anything that would be considered a personal injury, but which leads to the death of the victim qualifies as a wrongful death. That means any kind of negligent behaviour that leads to someone dying qualifies as a wrongful death. That includes the following incidents:
Vehicle Accidents – Any kind of vehicular accident can be dangerous enough to cause serious injuries, but if the victim of the accident succumbs to their injuries, then the case becomes a wrongful death. But that is only if the accident was caused by the other driver’s negligence.
Slip and Fall – A slip and fall accident is not always fatal, but it can cause serious spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries, which could lead to death.
Medical Malpractice – There are many different ways that the negligence of a medical professional could cause an injury and some of those could lead to death. For example, surgical errors or misdiagnosis could cause complications that lead to a patient’s death.
Defective Products – A defective product could hurt someone in a variety of different ways. The defective product could hurt them directly or it could be a component of a larger machine, like a vehicle, that causes it to malfunction. Either way it could cause injuries that lead to death.
Assault and/or Battery – Even though these are criminal acts, it is still possible to bring a wrongful death claim against the perpetrator if the assault victim dies. The reason is that the criminal charge punishes the person for their wrongdoing, while the wrongful death claim is meant to provide compensation to the family of the decedent.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Orange County?
Wrongful death claims can only be filed by certain people in Orange County and the rest of California. Only the following people are allowed to file wrongful death claims:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The domestic partner of the deceased
- The children of the deceased
- Anyone who is entitled to the property of the deceased by intestate succession if there are no surviving family members of the decedent
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed by the following parties in Orange County if they can prove that they were dependent on the deceased:
- The putative spouse of the decedent or the children of the putative spouse
- The stepchildren of the decedent
- The parents of the decedent
The Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The damages in wrongful death lawsuits will vary depending on the type of case, but in all cases, they are meant to ease the financial burden of the surviving family members. The damages from a wrongful death case are typically divided into two categories; the damages meant to compensate the estate for losses that are associated with the death, and the damages meant to compensate for the losses suffered by the surviving family members because of the death. The losses associated with the estate include the following:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical expenses of the decedent before they passed away
- Wages the decedent would have earned if they had not died
The damages attributed to the surviving family members include the following:
- The loss of financial support
- The loss of love, companionship, guidance, moral support, and more
Survival actions are different from California wrongful death lawsuits, but are sometimes combined with them, an action that is permitted by the California Code of Civil Procedure. A survival action lawsuit allows the heir to the decedent’s estate to sue on behalf of the estate. That means they can sue for any damages the decedent suffered before they died. A survival action can provide compensation for the following two kinds of losses:
- Claims that are unrelated to the death, but which the deceased had a right to sue for. This can include the pain and suffering experienced by the victim before they died.
- Claims related to the injury that caused the death as long as the person survived for some time before they succumbed to those injuries.
Additionally, survival action lawsuits can also include awards for punitive damages.
What qualifies as wrongful death?
A wrongful death is when a person dies from what is classified as a personal injury. A personal injury is when a person is injured because of the negligent behavior of someone else. That means a personal injury is usually the result of an accident rather than an intentional act. Common types of personal injuries include car accidents, slip and fall accidents, and medical malpractice. When a person succumbs to the injuries from an accident that was caused by a negligent act, then that qualifies as wrongful death.
How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth?
The worth of a wrongful death lawsuit can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the case. It is calculated by finding out the financial support the deceased person provided to their family, the value of the household services they performed around the home, the benefits the deceased would have provided to their family had they lived, as well as all of the funeral and burial expenses. There are also the intangible losses suffered by the family of the deceased, such as the loss of affection, loss of moral support, loss of companionship, loss of guidance, and more that they will no longer be able to receive since their loved one has passed away. That means the settlement amounts in a wrongful death lawsuit have a very wide range. The settlement offer could be in the tens of thousands of dollars all the way up to the millions of dollars. There is no average settlement amount because each wrongful death case is different from the other.
How hard is it to prove wrongful death?
The difficulty or ease of proving a wrongful death depends on the nature of the case. In a wrongful death case, you or your attorney need to establish the following elements:
- The at-fault party owed the deceased a duty of care. A duty of care means that a person is obliged to behave in a reasonable manner that does not put anyone in harm’s way.
- The duty of care was violated. This means that a person behaved in a negligent way that could potentially cause harm to others.
- The violation of the duty of care resulted in an accident that caused injuries that led to the death of the victim.
- The family of the deceased suffered losses because of the passing of their loved one.
The results of the wrongful death case will depend on how well you or your attorney can establish each of those elements.
Contact Us If You Suffered a Wrongful Death in the Family in Orange County
People who have suffered a sudden death in the family that was caused by negligence may not be thinking about wrongful death claims, but it is important to consider them in order to maintain the financial stability of the remaining family members. A wrongful death lawyer can help the family to file their claim and get any compensation which they are owed. The insurance company of the responsible party will be reluctant to offer a reasonable settlement, but wrongful death attorneys are used to negotiating with insurance companies and will fight to get the family a fair settlement amount.
The California wrongful death laws allow the surviving family members to file a survival action as well and wrongful death lawyers can help with that as well. Timothy J. Ryan is the Orange County wrongful death attorney you should call if you need legal help after someone you love has died unexpectedly because of the negligent behaviour of another. He will deal with the case sensitively and efficiently so that the family has one less thing to worry about during their time of grief. So contact Timothy J. Ryan if you need a wrongful death lawyer in Newport Beach or anywhere else in Orange County.