What Is a Wrongful Death LawsuitWhen someone you love dies because of another person’s actions, it is undoubtedly tragic and upsetting. A wrongful death lawsuit may help the remaining family members find some semblance of justice after such a tragedy. A wrongful death claim is a civil action typically brought by the deceased person’s surviving family members or the deceased individual’s estate. The purpose of the wrongful death claim is for family members to obtain compensation for the loss of their loved one due to another person’s conduct. 

While a wrongful death lawsuit certainly cannot bring back or replace your loved one, it can hold the people responsible for their death accountable and provide you with the necessary compensation to rebuild your life. If you have questions about a possible wrongful death claim, speak with one of the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Henderson Law. We can help you to find justice during this difficult time. 

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims can arise from an array of conduct in many different situations. Examples of behavior and accidents that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit include the following:

  • Car accidents,
  • Commercial truck or van accidents,
  • Motorcycle accidents,
  • Pedestrian accidents,
  • Medical malpractice,
  • Premise liability issues, and
  • Defective products.

If you believe the recent loss of your loved one may have been at the hands of a negligent actor, it is best to seek the advice of a California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

A wrongful death lawsuit proceeds similarly to other personal injury claims, and the person who files the case has the burden to prove their claims. A wrongful death claim can be based on someone’s intentional, even criminal acts. It can also be based on a person’s negligent acts. Most wrongful death lawsuits rely on proving negligence. 

To prove that a person’s negligence caused the death of the deceased person or decedent, you must show the following:

  • The responsible person owed the decedent a reasonable duty of care;
  • The responsible person breached that duty;
  • The responsible person’s breach caused the decedent’s death; and 
  • You suffered damages as a result. 

A seasoned attorney will know what evidence is necessary to establish and prove your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence. Sometimes the evidence is obvious and readily available. Other times, it takes much more investigative work to establish the causal relationship between the responsible person’s actions and your loved one’s death. No matter the case, our attorneys are ready to assist you.

Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

You typically only have two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death claim in court. When you are grieving and adjusting to life without your family member, keeping track of time is likely not on your mind. It is best to speak with an attorney immediately to preserve your rights. 

What Damages Are Available in Wrongful Death Claims?

Many of the damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are similar to those in a personal injury claim. However, certain damages are unique to wrongful death cases.

For instance, the types of damages available in wrongful death actions but not in other civil lawsuits can include the following:

  • The value of lost companionship your deceased family member provided;
  • The value of lost services and support your deceased family member provided; and
  • The emotional pain and anguish experienced by the surviving family members.

In addition to this compensation, you can seek the compensation available in other personal injury claims, such as economic and non-economic damages

Economic Damages

In a California wrongful death lawsuit, economic damages are intended to cover the financial loss you suffered due to losing your loved one. As with most civil lawsuits, economic damages are generally easy to identify and calculate because they are based on actual costs. Evidence such as records and receipts are instrumental in quantifying financial loss.

Medical Expenses

Most wrongful death claims involve medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses because most people receive some form of medical treatment after an accident. They often require medical attention and treatment before and up until death. Medical treatment can include:

  • Emergency care, 
  • Surgery, 
  • Inpatient hospital stays, and
  • Rehabilitation facility costs. 

A wrongful death claim can seek reimbursement for these costs.

Lost Wages

Seeking compensation for lost wages can be twofold in a wrongful death claim. You may be entitled to lost wages for the time your loved one was out of work following their injury but before their death. In addition, you can seek compensation for the future lost earnings of the decedent. This can be crucial, primarily if you and your family relied on the decedent’s financial support and anticipated relying on it in the future. 

Calculating anticipated lost wages can be challenging. It is often difficult to predict exactly what someone would have earned over their lifetime. Courts typically look to several factors to help determine future lost wages, including:

  • The age of the decedent at the time of their death;
  • If the decedent had any prior health conditions before their death;
  • The anticipated financial needs of the decedent’s minor children, if there are any; and
  • The decedent’s earning capacity.

A wrongful death attorney can assist you in gathering the necessary evidence to help demonstrate your loved one’s future earning capacity. Contact us today!

Other Financial Losses

In addition to the economic damages, in a wrongful death claim, you may be able to seek other financial losses unique to these types of claims. These include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses; 
  • Lost anticipated inheritance;
  • Lost value of household services; and
  • Lost value of childcare.

A knowledgeable and skilled wrongful death lawyer can help you better understand which of these you might be able to expect to recover. 

Non-Economic Damages

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages are often difficult to calculate because they are subjective. The purpose of non-economic damages is to compensate the surviving loved ones for impalpable losses. 

Non-economic damages can include:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Mental anguish,
  • Loss of consortium, and
  • Loss of companionship and parental guidance. 

Insurance companies often challenge claims for non-economic damages or do not see eye-to-eye with your estimation of these damages. An experienced lawyer can effectively negotiate non-economic damages with insurance companies and responsible parties. They can also prove these damages at trial if necessary. 

Henderson Law’s Santa Rosa Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you are contemplating filing a California wrongful death lawsuit, let us help. At Henderson Law, we have been assisting clients through tough and challenging times for over 25 years. Losing a loved one is never easy. While you focus on rebuilding your life, we will fight to get you the compensation you and your family deserve. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.