Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by the surviving family members of a person who suffered death because of another individual’s negligence or reckless behavior. Immediate family of the decedent such as parents, spouses, domestic partner and children, and any heirs included in an individual’s will, can typically ﬁle a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased individual.
What Are Some Of The Biggest Challenges Faced In Wrongful Death Cases?
In California, a wrongful death claim or lawsuit can be filed by statutory heirs. The rule on statutory heirs is set forth in the Code of Civil Procedure. Statutory heirs are considered to be a spouse, domestic partner, children, and grandchildren. A big challenge that one might face during a wrongful death claim is the issue of applicable insurance limits. Many wrongful death cases arise from automobile accidents or an accident on someone’s property, where the insurance policy insuring the car or property covers such accidents. However, oftentimes these insurance policies do not cover extremely large damages, such as wrongful deaths. Therefore, the issue of who the property claimants are, what the insurance policy limits are and what the policy will actually cover is a challenge for many claimants and their attorneys.
How Are Damages Determined In Wrongful Death Cases?
The damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death case include economic damages, such as medical costs, funeral costs, the loss of the decedent’s financial contributions, and non-economic damages which is compensation for grief and the loss of companionship. While we realize that monetary awards cannot compensate for the loss of a beloved family member or replace a human life, the wrongful death claim is intended to compensate the family for their tragic loss. Damages for pain and suffering can be recovered as well for the decedent’s suffering that occurred during the time between the accident and their death The amount a claimant would receive would depend on the amount of pain and suffering that occurred. For example, an individual who died in a car crash instantly might receive less compensation for pain and suffering than a person who was hit and died a slower death in a hospital over the course of several months would.
Other possible damages that can be recovered is loss of consortium, which refers to the loss of beneﬁt the claimant is no longer there to provide to their spouse or children, whether intimate, ﬁnancially, etc. Lost future wages are also a big part of potential recovered damages. You may be able to recover the deceased individual’s future earning potential in some cases.
How Long Do Wrongful Death Cases Generally Take To Be Resolved?
Each wrongful death case is different. The settlement or resolution of a case will depend on several factors including how the death occurred, who the claim is against, and how many parties to the lawsuit there are. For instance, what are the relevant insurance policy limits? How much proof do you have to back up what you are claiming in the lawsuit?
While certain cases are handled fairly quickly, others may take a couple years or more to go through the court and judgment processes. In general, you can expect for a wrongful death claim to take at least a year to reach a resolution, and oftentimes longer depending on the circumstances of the case.
What Are The Top Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Cases?
In general, people don’t truly understand the majority of the process and everything that goes into a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, dealing with the insurance companies and the multi-layer defenses that insurance companies put forth in these types of cases is a huge factor. You will not likely ﬁnd an insurance company readily offering a settlement or policy limits upon a wrongful death.
Oftentimes, they will wait and force affected individuals to hire an attorney and ﬁle a suit. Sometimes people on their own don’t even get a call from the insurance company who is responsible until an attorney is retained. Communication with the insurance companies will normally begin once an attorney is handling the case.
It is advised to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. When someone passes away from a wrongful death incident, the evidence should be immediately preserved. An attorney can assist with you with gathering this information and recording it. Since evidence tends to get misplaced, lost, forgotten, or destroyed over time, it is recommended to get all documents and evidence in order immediately. The collected and recorded evidence then needs to be reviewed by an attorney as soon as possible in order to determine liability, which is the ﬁrst step in ﬁling a wrongful death case.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations On Wrongful Death Cases In CA?
As with most other personal injury type of claims, wrongful death claims in California must be ﬁled within a speciﬁc time frame, also known as the statute of limitations. In California, in general, the law states that a wrongful death claim must be ﬁled within two years of the date of the deceased person’s death however, it is very important to note that the statute is very specific to the facts of the claim. In cases involving government or public entities, there are claim filing requirements as early as six months. Determining the applicable statute requires an analysis by an experienced attorney. A claim must be ﬁled within the applicable statute of limitations or else the family forfeits the right to bring about a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent. For more information on Wrongful Death Claims In California, a video consultation is your next best step.