Typically, a personal injury claim is filed by the victim in an accident, who is seeking compensation for their injuries and the impacts on their lives that this accident had. A personal injury settlement or a lawsuit is warranted in cases where there is a responsible party in the injury, who caused the injuries through malice, negligence, or recklessness. When someone is killed in an accident that someone else caused, then the process is a bit different to follow, and hiring an San Diego wrongful death attorney is one of the best steps that the surviving family members or loved ones can take in order to seek compensation for this terrible situation.
Seeking Wrongful Death Compensation With Injury Trial Lawyers, APC
The team at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC understands that you are going through a very difficult time after leaving a family member or loved one, which is why we believe that it is so important to give you the legal support that you deserve. We want to make sure that you have space in your life to focus on your own needs and to move forward with your life, which is why we work so hard to take on the stress that a personal injury or wrongful death case can cause.
Read more below to get a better idea of what a wrongful death is, how a San Diego wrongful death attorney can help you get the compensation that you deserve after this loss, who can seek compensation in these cases, and more. Contact us now to schedule a free initial consultation, where we will be able to discuss your situation in detail and develop an understanding of how we will be able to work together in order to get you through this experience.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Simply put, wrongful death is a death that is caused by someone else’s actions (or inactions) through negligence, recklessness, or an intentional act. A wrongful death claim is a legal action taken against the defendant, who is responsible for the death, in order to seek compensation for a wide range of damages that the victim and the survivors have endured. There are many different details that go into determining the amount of money that the plaintiff is entitled to, and this process can require a significant amount of negotiation and legal work to reach a final decision about.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Typically, close family members of the deceased’s estate representative will file a wrongful death claim as a designated beneficiary. However, there are a variety of relationships that may be considered a designated beneficiary able to seek compensation. The following are some of the most common people who can file a wrongful death claim:
- Immediate family members: spouse, children, adopted children, or parents (of an unmarried child)
- Other family members such as siblings or grandparents
- Domestica partners
- Those who were financially dependent on the deceased
- Representatives of the deceased’s estate
While these are the most typical, there are many different specific relationships that may qualify as designated beneficiaries, but you will need to explore your options with a wrongful death attorney.
Major Factors in a Wrongful Death Claim
Fault in a San Diego Wrongful Death
The first thing that will need to be established in a wrongful death claim is whether or not the defendant is actually responsible for the death, at which point the plaintiff will be able to move forward with seeking damages. In some instances, such as in a medical malpractice case, or a fatal drunk driving accident, fault can be fairly straightforward to determine; however, there are plenty of situations where fault can be more difficult to establish. Regardless, an attorney will be able to help you through this step.
To establish whether or not the defendant is responsible for the death, there are some basic details that are typically present in the claim:
- The defendant had a duty of care that they owed to the victim — to act in a way to avoid causing harm to others
- The defendant failed this duty of care, by deciding to drive while intoxicated, assault the victim, fail to recall a dangerous product, and a variety of other situations
- This failure caused a fatal accident
If you have lost someone in a situation that includes these details, and you are eligible to do so, then you may be able to seek compensation from the defendant or their insurance company for the damages that both you and the deceased suffered.
Compensation in a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to fully understand the damages that the plaintiff is entitled to, there are many different factors that the wrongful death attorney will need to explore with them, both economic and non-economic damages. In many ways, a wrongful death claim is procedurally-similar to any personal injury case, although there are a variety of other details that will inform the amount of damages for the survivors.
Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
The basic economic damages in a wrongful death case are intended to compensate the survivors for the medical costs that the deceased incurred before their death, as well as the financial contribution that the deceased made to the family. In cases where the deceased is a primary earner for the family, these damages will need to account for both short- and long-term impacts that the family will likely experience from losing this support.
It is important that you calculate all economic damages that you will encounter moving forward because you deserve to be compensated for every impact that the defendant’s actions caused. There are many other types of economic damages that go into a comprehensive wrongful death case, which we will work through with you as we build your case together.
Non-Economic Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
In addition to the measurable financial impact that this loss will have on a family, there are immeasurable emotional injuries that the survivors must endure long into the future. While no amount of money will change the reality of the situation, these types of damages may provide the family with monetary support so that they can focus on moving forward with their lives without feeling financially overwhelmed.
Since these types of damages are fairly abstract, it is important that you are working with an experienced wrongful death attorney in order to quantify these damages in a way that paints a clear picture. During negotiations, you can be certain that the defendant’s legal team will be working aggressively to limit these types of damages.
Negotiating a Fair Settlement in a Wrongful Death Claim
Once you and your attorney have determined the amount of damages that you are seeking from the insurance company or defendant, you will then need to engage in a series of negotiations to reach an agreement. In many cases, a personal injury case is better to be settled than it is to take to trial, because of how complicated, drawn-out, and costly a trial can be. In addition, defendants often prefer to settle out-of-court to keep details about the accident out of public record.
Even if the defendant is motivated to avoid a trial, though, this does not mean that they will simply accept responsibility for all damages without a fight. The next phase will be a back-and-forth between your lawyer and the defendant in an attempt to settle the case before filing a lawsuit. If these negotiations are successful, then you will be able to accept your offer and move forward; however, if you are unable to reach an agreement then you and your lawyer must prepare for a case in the California courts.
Common Wrongful Death Causes
There are many different ways that someone can be the victim of a wrongful death, but the following are some of the most common cases in the United States. Whether or not you see a situation that resembles your own, contact us as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your case during the free initial consultation with our San Diego wrongful death attorney.
In California, there were 3,563 traffic deaths in 2018 alone, owing to a number of factors such as drunk driving, speeding, and more. While this marked an 8.3% decrease from the 3,884 deaths in 2017, this is still an alarmingly-high number to consider each time you drive out onto the California roads. In the United States, the likelihood of dying in a car accident is roughly 1 in 103. It is, therefore, no surprise to consider that car crashes are some of the most common causes of wrongful death.
Drunk and impaired driving is a significant factor in fatal vehicle accidents in California, and a shocking 42% of all drivers killed in motor vehicle collisions in 2018 tested positive for alcohol or drugs.
When a company designs, produces, distributes, and sells a product, it is their responsibility to ensure that the product will operate as expected and that consumers are fully aware of any inherent risks of use. For example, a chainsaw is inherently dangerous when used, and a user will not be able to seek compensation against a chainsaw company if they were injured due to their own error. However, if a chainsaw company distributes a product that is faulty, and these faults cause injury or death, then they are responsible for the damages caused.
Since many product supply chains can be very complicated, we will need to investigate the entire situation in order to determine who is at fault, before then determining how much blame that they are responsible for.
When a patient consults with a licensed medical professional, they have every legal right to expect that this professional will take prudent steps in order to keep the patient reasonably safe from unnecessary harm. This does not mean that a doctor is at fault when a cancer treatment is not successful, but it does hold the medical professionals liable in a variety of instances where they failed to take appropriate steps.
Common medical malpractice cases stem from things like failures to diagnose illnesses, surgical mixups, birth accidents, and more.
A civil suit can, and often does, take place in tandem with a criminal case over the same death, although the two are handled entirely separately from each other, and have no bearing on the outcome of the other. Therefore, the surviving family may be able to seek compensation from the plaintiff in cases where murder or homicide charges have been made as well, among other criminal acts that could lead to the death of a loved one.
While a criminal conviction is extremely helpful for proving a civil case, it is not necessary. Famously, OJ Simpson was found “Not Guilty” for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend but was ordered to pay $25 million in a civil case that the families of the deceased initiated.
Frequently Asked Questions about Wrongful Death
During your free initial consultation, we will be able to go through the following questions and more, while providing you with specific answers about your unique situation. However, you may find that some of the general answers provided below can give you some context about your own situation in the meantime.
Am I eligible to file a wrongful death claim?
In order to determine whether or not you are legally able to seek compensation against a defendant in a wrongful death case, we will need to explore a variety of details, beginning with your relationship to the deceased. If we determine that you are, in fact, a designated beneficiary, we will then move forward to determine whether or not there is an actual wrongful death case. The previous sections offer insight into a few different examples of wrongful death cases, as well as some factors that are commonly present in these cases, which could help you understand your own situation a bit more.
However, the best way for us to understand the options available to you is to begin working together as soon as possible. We will discuss your situation in detail during our free initial consultation in order to better understand the best path forward.
How much is my wrongful death case worth?
In order to determine the amount of money that we will seek in economic and non-economic damages in your wrongful death case, we will need to take time to investigate all aspects of the death and their impacts on your own life, financially and emotionally. Some wrongful death cases may not have any medical bills associated with them, while in other cases there may be extensive medical bills, to offer one example of the possible range of factors.
One of the first steps in our work together will be to begin compiling all of the information and documentation available in order to start quantifying the damages that you have suffered. In time, we will be able to present a clear and compelling argument to the defendant about the money that you rightfully deserve.
Why should I work with Injury Trial Lawyers, APC for my wrongful death case?
After losing a loved one, you deserve to be able to trust your San Diego wrongful death attorney to guide you through the legal complexities of a wrongful death case. The team at Injury Trial Lawyers, APC has a history of experience successfully representing wrongful death cases, among a variety of other personal injury cases, that should serve as an indication of the support that you will get as our valued client.
Contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation, which is a great opportunity to talk directly with our San Diego wrongful death attorney about your unique situation, and learn about the ways that we are here to help.