Wrongful Death Lawyer Orange County
If you are searching for a wrongful death lawyer in Orange County, chances are you have suddenly lost your spouse, or close relatives. You did not ask or want or deserve to be in this situation, but you are here because of the negligence of another person. We are truly sorry for your loss.
To help you navigate this difficult time, our team of Southern California personal injury lawyers – who are highly experienced wrongful death attorneys – have prepared the following information to provide answers to the questions most commonly asked by the surviving spouse and families of wrongful death victims. On top of your grief, we know you are likely also facing the financial hardship of funeral expenses, burial expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship, and perhaps even medical bills. That is a heavy burden, and no one should have to face that alone.
Our hope is that the following information is helpful as you plan your next steps. If you or any other surviving family members would like to take legal action and file a personal injury claim to seek financial compensation for your loss, this will explain your legal options. If you have any questions that we have not answered, call us at 949-218-5676 any time.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death is when fatalities are precipitated by the “willful negligence” of another party. If one person’s actions or inaction lead directly to another’s demise, they can be held responsible for wrongful death.
Some of the common causes of wrongful death include car accidents (auto accidents), truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, defective products, criminal behavior, drunk drivers, and bicycle accidents. But there are many other causes whereby negligent parties and their negligent actions lead to someone else’s untimely death.
Every year, with the guidance of wrongful death and personal injury lawyers, thousands of Americans file wrongful death lawsuits in civil court. Since they’re not criminal proceedings (even though criminal charges may be occurring simultaneously in certain cases), the goal of these actions is to secure monetary awards for the deceased’s heirs.
No amount of money will bring back the deceased person. But that does not mean their loved ones, who have been subjected to various monetary damages (such as medical expenses) and even non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering), should not be entitled to monetary compensation for the various types of damages. The responsible party is liable for those damages.
The Basic Rules of a Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death statutes are state laws. As such, the laws regarding a wrongful death claim may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, the broad strokes are similar in that:
- Wrongful death claimants must be family members who depended on the departed’s livelihood — i.e., spouses, children, and other familial dependents. Sixth cousins who’ve met the victim once at a BBQ need not file.
- The wrongful death statute of limitations — aka the time limit or time frame for filing an action from the date of incident (or date of death) — is between two and six years. Under California law, it’s a two-year statute of limitations.
- Claimants can sue a person, organization, business, hospital, or even government that proximately caused the death of their relative.
Many wrongful death cases come down to intentionality. Did the defendant purposefully commit the action at issue? Were they grossly negligent? Or was the tragedy a fluke that couldn’t have been reasonably predicted?
Like all personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death ones are complicated. A procedural misstep lurks around every motion. As such, enlisting the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer will go a long way toward ensuring you secure the best possible settlement. People frequently get off on technicalities; don’t let that happen in your situation.
What Types of Actions Can Result in a Wrongful Death Settlement?
All manners of injuries can lead to fatalities, so it’s impossible to create a definitive list of what does and does not qualify as wrongful death. That being said, many people have won claims when a party:
- Didn’t adequately protect their swimming pool;
- Caused a fatal and preventable automobile accident;
- Battered an individual;
- Committed medical malpractice;
- Put a defective product on the market.
The wrongful death question is frequently asked regarding abortions. To answer the question, “Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit against my girlfriend or wife for terminating her pregnancy,” the answer is “no.” Wrongful death statutes do not apply to unborn fetuses.
Can Emotional Torment Be Grounds for a Wrongful Death Suit in California?
Due to a 1960s court ruling, California is one of the few states where plaintiffs can file wrongful death claims against defendants that inflicted emotional stress resulting in suicide.
These types of cases are difficult to win. If your loved one died by suicide under the influence of another individual, contact a wrongful death attorney to explore accountability options.
Why Should I Sue for Wrongful Death?
There are several good reasons to sue for wrongful death.
Accountability: Not every killer is convicted in criminal court, and wrongful death civil actions serve as an alternative route to justice. O.J. Simpson is a perfect example. A jury acquitted the athlete-turned-actor at the criminal trial, but he lost a wrongful death suit brought by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
Lower Burden of Proof: The evidentiary standard for criminal convictions is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means prosecutors must prove that there is no other reasonable explanation for the event. In civil suits, however, “preponderance of evidence” is the bar that must be met. To satisfy the preponderance standard, the plaintiffs must only show a 50 percent or higher chance that the claim is true.
Secure Your Family’s Future: Wrongful death lawsuits are, in large part, about securing financial futures for victims’ descendants. As such, many cases are filed by the departed’s children. However, any relative with an economic dependency on the victim can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. For example, a niece or nephew who was dependent on the deceased for school tuition may be able to secure a settlement, even though they’re not the victim’s children.
When Should I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In California, civil cases of this nature have a two-year statute of limitations, meaning you must file a claim within 24 months of the incident. Most people take a few months to grieve and then move forward with an action. Remember, however, that evidence is central to the proceedings and could make all the difference. So don’t wait too long.
How long do wrongful death lawsuits take? Case details determine the length of the proceedings. Some take years; others are settled within weeks.
Against Whom Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Any party whose actions directly led to an individual’s death can be sued for wrongful death, including people, businesses, organizations, hospitals, and even governments. However, applicable statutes — known as “sovereign immunity laws” — in the majority of jurisdictions include copious exemptions regarding government culpability. As such, it is rare to win a wrongful death case against a bureaucratic body. Another tempering limitation is workers’ compensation laws. If the incident occurred at the workplace, you might want to consult with a wrongful death lawyer who can examine your circumstances and explain the available options.
Liability and Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
How do you prove wrongful death? To secure the ideal outcome, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendant’s — be it a person, hospital, or business — actions or lack thereof created a direct and natural series of events that resulted in a fatal injury.
For How Much Can I Sue in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Though limitations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, wrongful death claimants typically seek compensatory and punitive damages. The former is redress for actual monies lost as a direct result of the death under consideration. For example, if a young mother of two, who is her family’s primary earner, dies at the hand of someone else’s actions or omissions, compensatory damages might include her projected earnings for the next 40 years. Conversely, punitive damages are punishments. A jural body decides the amount, and the figures usually reflect a) the heinousness of the underlying action and b) the defendant’s ability to pay.
Compensatory damage awards may include:
- Funeral costs;
- Medical costs;
- Projected lost income;
- Loss of companionship costs.
In terms of hard calculations, there’s no such thing as an “average settlement” for wrongful death lawsuits. Since awards are determined by the case specifics, and the victim’s income, outcomes are all over the place. Note, however, that if the victim’s actions contributed to the deadly accident, that percentage could be deducted from the compensatory damages calculation.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
Again, the details or a given case are shaped by the suit specifics. However, successful plaintiffs usually accept their damage awards in one of three ways:
- Payment plan;
- Delayed trust.
Must I Pay Taxes on Wrongful Death Settlements?
No, the money gained through wrongful death settlements is non-taxable since a third-party is responsible for the underlying fatal event.
Consult with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Orange County
Dealing with tragedy is never easy, but our compassionate and experienced wrongful death lawyers in Orange County will guide you through the process, step by step, and vigorously fight on your behalf for maximum compensation. Nobody wants to go through this, but if it’s the card you’ve been dealt, our personal injury law firm is here to help you hold the responsible parties responsible.
We always offer a free consultation and free case evaluation. We also work on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay nothing until we win your case.
Even though we are based in Orange County, we serve the entire surrounding communities of Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, as well as Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
Our Areas of Expertise