When a loved one dies due to the negligence of another person, it can be hard to accept that their death could have been prevented. It can also be hard to move forward if that person was a provider and companion. No amount of money can fill the void of losing someone unnecessarily, but if a family depended on that individual for support, and that family then incurred medical expenses following their death, a Stockton wrongful death lawyer can help them fight for compensation.
Too many families suffer from the loss of their main provider after someone’s careless and irresponsible behavior caused their loved one’s death. The Ward Firm is committed to obtaining financial justice for families who have lost someone due to the negligence of another party. Our attorneys have experience working for an insurance defense firm. This has given us a deep understanding of how to prevent wrongful death claims from being denied.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
State law dictates who can file a wrongful death claim and receive damages from the responsible party. Parties eligible to file wrongful death claims and receive monetary compensation for the death of their loved one include a surviving spouse or domestic partner and the children of the deceased. Additionally, minor children who depended on the victim for at least half of their financial support may also be eligible to sue for wrongful death compensation.
What Is the One-Action Rule in California for Wrongful Death?
The One-Action Rule in California deems that only one action can be taken against an individual or party for the liability of an individual’s death. Therefore, multiple claims cannot be filed against the same person for the same victim’s wrongful death.
Thus, it is important that potential claimants work together to file just one claim collectively against a responsible party. Once one claim has been filed, there cannot be any additional wrongful death cases against that defendant for that victim’s death, whether the plaintiff was denied or granted their settlement.
What Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Include?
Wrongful death settlements in Stockton, California may include compensation for an array of expenses and costs incurred by the family who is filing the claim. Below is a comprehensive list of damages that can be recuperated in a wrongful death settlement.
Pain and suffering
Loss of companionship
Loss of consortium
Loss of society
Compensation for medical expenses
Compensation for loss of earnings
Loss of potential future earning capacity
Value of personal advice, services, and training
Other damages specifically named
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
The plaintiff(s) will be the beneficiaries of the settlement and, in most cases, will assume the responsibility of distributing settlement funds according to their needs. If necessary, the judge will delineate the settlement accordingly.
Payment distribution can also be affected by the type of settlement that is paid out, whether a lump sum or a structured settlement. A lump-sum settlement is paid out all at once and is useful in many cases because the whole of any medical bills, funeral expenses, and legal fees can be covered. However, it often doesn’t leave much left over to care for the family for very long thereafter.
A structured settlement will distribute the compensation via a schedule of payments that last for a certain time period until the funds are entirely exhausted. In many cases, this is better because it provides long-term financial support to the victim’s family. That way, they can take care of day-to-day expenses while still making payments on the bigger expenses associated with the wrongful death.
How Much Does a Stockton Wrongful Death Attorney Cost?
In California, personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee, so you won’t pay any legal fees until your settlement is approved, and you pay no legal fees if it is denied.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxed?
In most cases, wrongful death and personal injury settlements are not considered income, so they are not subject to taxes. Punitive damages, however, are taxable. Sometimes, but not always, a liable party is ordered to pay punitive damages as a punishment for their negligent, careless, or criminal activity when that behavior causes injury or death to others.
What Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Do?
The role of a wrongful death attorney is to represent their clients’ interests after a wrongful death has taken place. Their job is to seek justice and compensation for the damages resulting from the death of their loved one.
Hiring a Stockton wrongful death lawyer to assist you with your case has many benefits. A well-established lawyer understands the laws and legal processes required to file a claim, and they know how to apply them to your case. Furthermore, they can explain these legal aspects to you.
Navigate the Statute of Limitations
Once you hire an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death settlements, they can get right to work because there is a statute of limitations involved. This requires wrongful death claims to be filed within two years of the injury. In wrongful death claims against a government agency, the statute of limitations is only six months.
For this reason, it is important to start on the case as soon as possible. Individuals who choose to represent themselves find it difficult to navigate the timeline and meet all the requirements without the support of a wrongful death attorney. Often, they end up seeking legal aid anyway.
Investigate the Circumstances Surrounding the Wrongful Death
An attorney starts by gathering all the information they can regarding the wrongful death. This will likely involve:
Interviewing witnesses and anyone else involved
Obtaining the medical records of your loved one from before they passed
Collecting police reports, if applicable
Surveying the site of the accident, if possible
Your wrongful death lawyer can also calculate all the potential damages to be compensated. An experienced attorney who has successfully represented clients in wrongful death cases is familiar with the various types of damages that California law considers valid for monetary settlements of these claims. Furthermore, your attorney knows how to prove these expenses and argue a case to obtain coverage for them, if necessary.
Once they gather all the evidence, the lawyer closely examines the case. They may even draw diagrams or try to depict a visual representation of the event to determine liability. With a thorough understanding of the event and clear proof of liability, they can present the information to the family and discuss the potential of obtaining a monetary settlement in a wrongful death claim.
Represent You in Court
If the case goes to court, your wrongful death attorney can litigate on your behalf. It is ideal to have an attorney who is well-versed in negotiating with insurance companies. This can optimize the settlement amount awarded in your case because the first offer that an insurance company makes is not their highest offer, as they want to get away with paying the lowest amount possible. When a wrongful death attorney is involved, wrongful death settlements tend to be greater.
How Much Is a Wrongful Death Claim Worth in California?
A wrongful death case is paid out proportionate to the losses of the family. Unlike other states, California doesn’t put a cap on the maximum amount that these claims can pay for economic damages. However, there is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
Some forms of economic damages typically include any income that the deceased would have earned and then contributed if not for their wrongful death, medical bills, and funeral expenses. Some examples of non-economic damages include reduced quality of life, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering. General tangible losses, benefits, or gifts that would have been received had the victim lived, can also be included in a settlement.
There is no exact average settlement amount for wrongful death claims. However, a large number of these cases in California result in settlements worth between $250,000 and $500,000.
Where Does the Money in a Wrongful Death Claim Come From?
In most cases, the negligent party’s insurance policy will cover all or a portion of the settlement, whether that policy is for:
If the insurance policy does not cover the entirety of the settlement, or if the negligent party did not have insurance, it does not erase their responsibility, and they will be held liable for the difference. In this case, the liable party may have their wages garnished or be forced to sell off any assets they have to cover the settlement. In some cases, though, the settlement is never fulfilled if the liable person has no assets to apply to the balance.
How Do I Prove a Wrongful Death in California?
Proving wrongful death in California leaves the plaintiff with the burden of proof. There are four components that must be met to be successful in proving the liability of another party for the death of a loved one. These elements are briefly explained below.
The first component is proving that the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional behavior resulted in the death of the victim. Some grounds for negligence include a failure to maintain a safe environment, a momentary lapse of judgment, or a deliberate act of violence, among others.
Breach of Duty
The second component of proving a wrongful death includes showing that there was a breach of duty on the part of the defendant. It must be shown that the defendant owed the duty of care to the victim. This can only be done if certain relationships are proven to have existed between the defendant and the victim, such as the duty of a driver to follow traffic rules.
In this example, proving that a negligent driver caused a car accident and the death of another driver due to a breach of their duty meets this requirement.
The third component of a successful wrongful death claim is causation. Causation is the link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the victim’s death. It must be clear and evident that the causation was the defendant’s course of action and/or behavior that caused the victim’s death. It must also be shown that if it wasn’t for the defendant’s negligent or irresponsible actions, the victim would not have died. In many cases, a professional testimony from a credible witness is necessary to establish causation.
The fourth and final component of a wrongful death claim is damages. The plaintiff must demonstrate that there were significant damages incurred by the family due to the death of the victim. Damages may include monetary expenses, such as medical bills, funeral costs, and loss of income, as well as non-economic damages, including companionship or pain and suffering.
Depending on the type of accident, an identification of the responsible party may be necessary. For example, if there were multiple cars involved in an accident, an attorney must establish who was at fault if the original police report or other documents contradict their client’s story. If it is found that multiple people are responsible for the accident and their collective actions led to the death of the victim, liability for the wrongful death claim will be divided proportionately according to the results of the investigation.
A more complex example would be a product liability case, in which the manufacturer and the distributor were found to both be negligent, thus causing the victim’s wrongful death.
Seeking the Help of a Stockton Wrongful Death Attorney
If your loved one died unnecessarily due to the negligence of a business, driver, property owner, product manufacturer, or other liable party, you and your family may be entitled to compensation via a wrongful death claim. A Stockton wrongful death lawyer is the ideal resource for getting these types of claims approved.
To optimize the chances of obtaining a fair and adequate wrongful death settlement, contact The Ward Firm to learn more about how we can help you recover the damages you suffered following your loved one’s passing due to someone else’s negligence. We have the experience and knowledge you need to get the most out of your claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation
At your free initial consultation, you will meet directly with Justin, and he will explain how he can best help you with your case. If you decide to work with us, we will immediately get started on creating a strategy that protects your interests.
To get more information, call our office at 916-443-2474 or send us an email using our contact form. We are available by phone 24 hours a day. Se habla español.
The Ward Firm is open and actively assisting clients with personal injury, criminal, and employment related matters, and we do not anticipate any interruption in representation. However, please understand that all appointments will be telephonic as we observe the CDC's recommended social distancing.