Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing someone close to you can be painful. It alters your entire life as you know it and, depending on the circumstances, can lead you down a path where closure becomes hard to obtain. If your loved one has experienced the circumstances of wrongful death in Sacramento, California, talk with our firm. There are certain things you can do to find some sense of closure, including pursuing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. While no type of financial gain can ease the pain of losing someone you love, it can help deal with the unexpected financial burden of that loss.
Handling a wrongful death is certainly not easy; the emotional toll alone can be overwhelming. To add to the necessary arrangements, estate closure, and other end of life responsibilities, you must also consider the statute of limitations and determination of negligence if you choose to pursue legal retribution for your loss. For that reason, before you begin pursuing a wrongful death claim, it is crucial that you find a skilled and knowledgeable Sacramento, CA wrongful death attorney. There are many intricacies involved in these complex cases, and you need someone on your side who can navigate the finer details that will help you in your pursuit of justice. The Ward Firm can ensure you have the resources and assertive representation necessary to successfully pursue your wrongful death action.
What Is a “Wrongful Death?”
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of a wrongful act by another person or entity. To prove a wrongful death occurred, your attorney must demonstrate the four critical elements of a wrongful death case:
- A human died as the result of another’s negligence or carelessness.
- The other individual had a duty to the victim to act responsibly. For example, drivers have a duty to drive responsibly and follow traffic laws; physicians have a duty to provide appropriate medical care.
- The other individual breached their duty of care, causing the death of another. For example, drivers driving recklessly and causing a fatal car accident or physician mistakes leading to a death constitute a breach of duty that causes death.
- The surviving family experienced financial damages because of the death. The death of the victim must result in measurable damages, including financial expenses, loss of income, and more.
The means of wrongful death can vary depending on the many different circumstances that can lead to injury and death. Our firm has handled wrongful death cases with causes including automobile accidents, motorcycle, and airplane accidents, incidences of medical malpractice, product liability, work accidents, exposure to dangerous chemicals, animal attacks, abuse, neglect, criminal activity, and truck and train accidents. Your Sacramento wrongful death attorney will gather the proper evidence and establish duty of care, breach of duty, and any damages incurred while preparing your claim.
Wrongful Death in California
While wrongful death can occur due to a variety of causes, the three most common wrongful death causes in California are auto accidents, medical malpractice, and workplace injury.
- Auto Accidents—According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, auto accidents kill nearly 40,000 people annually. When behind the wheel of a vehicle, drivers have a duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner, considering the weather and road conditions. Drivers who become distracted while driving or engage in drunk driving, aggressive driving, or disobeying traffic laws may be accountable for any wrongful death or injury that occurred based on this breach of duty.
In addition, vehicle manufacturing issues with tires, wheels, seatbelts, airbags, and other elements may lead to wrongful death actions. Courts can assign fault in this type of wrongful death claim to another driver, a passenger of the driver’s vehicle, or even the auto manufacturing company.
- Medical Malpractice—In a medical setting, malpractice occurs when a physician, nurse, or other medical employee acts negligently or fails to take action in a circumstance that led to a patient’s death. According to the United States Department of Justice, over 90% of claims that deal specifically with medical malpractice have led to death or permanent injuries that impact the quality of life.
When it comes to any medical profession, there exists a standard of care that is acknowledged across the medical field. Each medical professional has a duty to fulfill this standard of care. A violation of this standard, coupled with negligence, death, and financial damages, can qualify an individual for a wrongful death claim.
- Workplace—The workplace can be a dangerous place, especially in certain professional instances. While workplace accidents can happen anywhere, they occur more regularly in areas like construction sites, manufacturing plants, and mining locations. As a result, it is important to be aware of the standards implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Workplace wrongful death claims can include deaths caused by workplace slips and falls, explosions, burns, equipment malfunctions, and more. A surviving family may bring a wrongful death claim against an employer if there is a clear disregard for the safety of the employees that led directly to a wrongful death.
It is key to find a wrongful death attorney who understands the different subject matter areas your wrongful death claim could occupy. Your Sacramento, California wrongful death lawyer will demonstrate how each of the four elements of wrongful death occurred to build your unique claim.
Who Can File A Claim?
In the state of California, only certain individuals can pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased. Those eligible include:
- Domestic partners
- Surviving children
- Grandchildren, if children are no longer living
- An individual entitled to property, often including parents or siblings
- Another individual that can show financial dependency, including:
- Dependent parents
- Other dependent minors. The individual must have resided with the decedent for at least 180 days prior to death and remain dependent on the decedent for at least half of the minor’s support.
- Putative spouses. Putative spouse refers to a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who feels they were married in good faith and that the marriage to the client was valid at the time of death. For example, if a person marries under the belief that their first marriage is void, to find later the initial divorce was invalid.
What Damages Will California Courts Consider?
A variety of damages may apply in a wrongful death action. Damages are divided into two main categories, economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages can commonly include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical and hospital bills
- Loss of income
- Amount of money the deceased would have earned if he or she was alive
- Household services
Non-economic damages may include:
- Loss of love, community, and affection
- Loss of moral support and guidance
- Loss of sexual companionship
It is important to note that in California, you may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. In addition, you may only pursue quantifiable damages as they apply to your loss as an heir. Because of this, many choose to file a wrongful death claim in conjunction with a “survival action.” Survival actions allow a representative or family member to assume the legal rights of the deceased. Thus, heirs may receive the compensation that would have been afforded to the decedent if they had survived. However, this does not include disfigurement or pain and suffering.
How Hard is it to Prove a Wrongful Death Case?
Your success in a wrongful death claim depends on two major factors: your ability to establish a firm basis for your claim, and the hiring of a well-versed attorney who understands the specific needs that apply to this type of claim. First, it is important to note that wrongful death claims are a civil action instead of a criminal case. This means that you must still provide sufficient evidence, but the evidence does not necessarily need to prove wrongful death beyond a reasonable doubt.
Second, it is key to find a Sacramento wrongful death attorney who can develop a strategy, investigate your claim, and coordinate with experts and witnesses to improve the strength of your claim. When it comes to a civil claim, the quality of your evidence is often more important than the quantity of evidence you may be able to provide. You will need a skilled attorney who can build a solid case and ensure your evidence supports your claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Statutes of limitations apply to wrongful death claims in California. Under California law, you must file wrongful death actions within two years of the date of the injury or six months after the death. No one wants to move from grief to dealing with the court system, but it is important to recognize the period during which you can pursue compensation for your unforeseen loss. It is important to act quickly to secure your family’s financial future.
Choose an Experienced Sacramento Wrongful Death Attorney
Filing a wrongful death claim can be complicated. There are numerous factors you must consider and multiple elements your claim must meet to proceed through the judicial system. To help, you need a dedicated Sacramento wrongful death attorney – skilled at navigating the many sensitive elements of these claims. When you have someone on your side who genuinely cares about your case and is willing to aggressively pursue all available evidence for your claim, you can return to processing your grief and finding closure for your loss. Schedule a free consultation with The Ward Firm in Sacramento by completing our online contact form.