What you need to do in the event of a Wrongful Death
If a loved one has died because some party has caused their death either through negligence or because of intentional action, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim. This claim allows the estate or those close to the deceased to file a lawsuit against the party that is liable legally for the unfortunate death.
Each state as its own wrongful death laws, but generally these kinds of claims are filed by a representative of the deceased person’s estate, on behalf of surviving family members.
When Can I File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim can be filed after situations in which the victim would otherwise have a valid personal injury claim but is killed as a result of the defendant’s wrongful action. This can occur in a variety of situations, including:
- When a victim dies due to medical malpractice. When a doctor fails to diagnose a condition or is careless about the level of care provided and their patient dies because of their negligence, it may be possible to file a wrongful claim against them.
- When a car accident results in a fatality due to negligence. If the driver is found to be negligent at the time of the injury, and the victim dies as a result of the car accident injuries, this may allow a wrongful death claim to be brought.
- When someone is intentionally killed. A civil lawsuit can be brought by the victim’s family separate from the state’s criminal case against the defendant.
It is not uncommon for personal injury cases to turn to wrongful death claims. The same causes can create either claim, but with one exception: injuries that result in death must be handled exclusively through the worker’s compensation system.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim?
In California, the Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Domestic Partners
- Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased)
- Other minor children (like stepchildren) who were dependent on at least 50% of their financial support on the deceased
- Anyone else who would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California laws of in-state succession
What do you need to prove wrongful death?
First, it matters who is filing the wrongful death claim. The claim is usually filed by a representative – often a personal injury or wrongful death attorney – of the estate of the deceased person. The claim is filed on behalf of the survivors of the victim. Who qualifies as survivors vary from state to state.
The damages that you could be awarded in a wrongful death claim include:
- The deceased person’s “pain and suffering”
- Any medical treatment that was incurred as a result of injury prior to death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of the deceased person’s expected income
- Loss of inheritance as a result of the death
- Value of the services that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of care, guidance and nurturing that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
How are wrongful death settlements paid out?
In most cases, these settlements are paid out by insurance providers who provide liability coverage for the person or entity that is found to be at fault. Insurance policies often have a policy limit amount, which limits how much they will pay before the person or entity is liable.
If the responsible party does not have sufficient insurance coverage, they will be held personally responsible for any judgment or settlement amount and possibly even the legal fees accrued in the process. The IRS considers most wrongful death settlements to be non-taxable, as long as the payments of compensatory. If the damages are punitive and are meant to punish the person responsible, the IRS may tax those damages.
Because of the complexities of these kinds of claims, a personal injury attorney is your best ally if you are seeking to file a wrongful death claim. They will be able to guide you through the complicated legal process and ensure that you are able to receive the best possible compensation for your loss.
If you have any questions, or if you are wondering if you should file a wrongful death claim, reach out to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer at Shirvanian Law Firm for a compassionate approach to your case. Call the Shirvanian Law Firm 818-835-5396 to schedule a consultation today!