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When negligence leads to the untimely death of a loved one, the surviving family members should know their options for legal recourse against the responsible party. A wrongful death claim functions similarly to a personal injury claim, except that the injured party does not survive his or her injury or illness. California follows specific rules dictating who may file wrongful death claims, statutes of limitation for filing such claims, and the types of compensation available from successful claims.
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Finding the right attorney to handle a wrongful death claim in San Bernardino can be a challenge. The attorneys at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP, understand how difficult these situations are for grieving family members, and we take a compassionate, individualized approach to legal representation for every wrongful death claim we handle.
Our San Bernardino wrongful death lawyers have helped past clients recover more than $10 billion in compensation for their damages in all types of civil claims, including wrongful death lawsuits. We believe that close communication with our clients and staying up to date on the latest developments in the legal world allow us to offer comprehensive legal counsel in a wide variety of cases.
Why Choose Our Firm For Your Wrongful Death Claim?
- We know that wrongful death lawsuits offer families much more than just financial compensation – including closure, justice and accountability. Our lawyers will work closely with your family to make sure that you have what you need during this difficult time.
- Our law firm is a team of highly skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys with a history of case results that have broken multiple records. We have what it takes to get the best possible value for your claim.
- Our San Bernardino wrongful death lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. We are affordable for everyone – you won’t pay your attorney anything unless you win your case. We don’t charge any fees upfront and are always straightforward about our rates.
What Is California’s Definition of Wrongful Death?
Although they are similar, each state has its own unique definition of wrongful death. If someone in your immediate family passed away in a sudden tragedy, such as a car crash or workplace disaster in San Bernardino, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim in California. The state’s legal definition of wrongful death under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60 is a cause of action for the death of a victim that results from the neglect or wrongful act of another. This can include:
- Negligence. Negligence is a breach of the duty of care that is applied to a situation, such as the responsibilities that are required of motor vehicle drivers. If someone is negligent, it means that he or she fails to meet the suitable requirements of care – resulting in injury or death to others.
- Medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is negligence or a wanton disregard for the safety of patients specifically by professionals in the medical field. In a wrongful death claim, malpractice can refer to fatal surgical errors, misdiagnoses, medication mistakes and other preventable mistakes that lead to patient death.
- Intent to injure or kill. Malicious intent to harm means that a defendant intended to either hurt or kill the victim. These cases typically involve crimes such as assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery or murder.
A wrongful death claim is a civil cause of action, meaning it is brought in the civil courts and intended to compensate a plaintiff for his or her losses. If wrongful death occurs due to a crime committed, the same defendant can also face criminal charges. A criminal case is different from a wrongful death action, as its purpose is to punish the defendant. The burden of proof is lesser in a wrongful death claim (a preponderance of the evidence) compared to a criminal case (proof beyond a reasonable doubt). This means that a defendant could be found liable for wrongful death even if found not guilty of a crime.
What Are the Different Types of Wrongful Death Claims?
A wrongful death claim can arise out of many fatal accidents and incidents in San Bernardino, California. Injury risks can be present in many everyday situations, such as a commute to work, a construction zone, the workplace and even right at home. If the deadly hazard could have been prevented with a reasonable level of care by one or more parties, the decedent’s family may have the right to seek compensation through a wrongful death claim. Some of the most common types of wrongful death claims in California are:
- Vehicle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Dangerous premises incidents
- Dog or animal attacks
- Swimming pool accidents
- Boating and cruise ship accidents
- Plane crashes
- Workplace accidents
- Construction accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Accidental poisoning or food poisoning
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Acts of violence/deadly crimes
The best way to find out if your family can file a claim after a devastating loss of life is by consulting with an attorney. Initial consultations with a lawyer at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP are free and come with no obligation to hire our law firm afterward. We will closely listen to your story, offer our best legal advice based on the circumstances and let you know if your case has merit as a wrongful death lawsuit. If so, we may offer to represent your family to assist with the legal process.
Finding the Right Legal Counsel
Success in a wrongful death claim hinges on the plaintiff’s ability to prove that the defendant was negligent in some way that directly contributed to or caused the death in question. The four elements of negligence are:
- Duty. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care in some way.
- Breach. Next the plaintiff must show how the defendant violated his or her duty of care.
- Damage. The plaintiff must prove a death occurred and provide evidence of the extent of the resulting economic losses.
- Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate or direct cause of the death in question.
The right attorney is one who has the knowledge, expertise and resources to collect evidence and present it in a compelling enough way to demonstrate that the defendant is more likely at fault for the decedent’s death than not at fault. Choose your attorney wisely, as this choice does make a difference to the success of your case.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in California?
According to state law, only certain people have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The state’s wrongful death statute says that a deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, child/children, grandchildren of any deceased children or any other relative with a claim on the deceased’s estate through intestate succession can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
If no such parties exist or wish to file claims, then a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a claim. The personal representative is someone assigned to administrate the decedent’s estate. The deceased person might have named a representative if he or she had a will at the time of death. If not, the San Bernardino courts will assign one. It is typically a close relative of the deceased person.
State law also says that a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by anyone who is “entitled to the property of the decedent through the rules of intestate succession.” This can include siblings, stepchildren, legal guardians and anyone living with the decedent at the time of death. Essentially, anyone who can prove they were financially dependent on a deceased individual may have grounds for a wrongful death claim in California. If you’re curious about whether you have the right to file, ask our attorneys.
What Types of Damages Are Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Damages is the legal term for financial compensation available in a civil lawsuit. Although no dollar amount will ever be enough to make up for the loss of a loved one’s life, obtaining a fair settlement or judgment award can help your family pay for related costs and look toward the future with greater financial peace of mind. A fair payout also shows the defendant that he or she must take accountability for his or her negligent or wrongful acts. Plaintiffs may qualify for many types of personal injury damages in a successful wrongful death claim, including:
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased’s final illness or injury.
- Lost income the deceased person would have reasonably expected to earn in the future had he or she survived.
- The loss of gifts or benefits that the plaintiff reasonably would have received from the decedent.
- Funeral and burial expenses, up to a reasonable limit (usually $10,000).
- The lost value of household services that would have been provided by the deceased.
- Loss of consortium, meaning the decedent’s affection, love, companionship, comfort, protection, sexual relations, guidance, moral support, etc.
No fixed amount exists for a wrongful death settlement or verdict. During an insurance claim, negotiations between you and an insurance claims adjuster will determine the final amount of your settlement.
If your case goes to court, a jury will decide the value of the judgment award (if any). The jury will be instructed to calculate the award based on the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions No. 3921, which states that the amount of money must reasonably compensate the plaintiff for the death of the decedent. The best way to determine the value of your case is by consulting with a wrongful death lawyer in San Bernardino.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California?
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in San Bernardino or throughout California is two years starting on the date of death. However, if it is not possible to determine the cause of death immediately, the statute of limitations may begin on the date of discovery of the cause of death. Contact a personal injury lawyer in San Bernardino to determine the statute of limitations in your case.
How Much Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Cost in San Bernardino?
If you’re worried about how much it will cost to seek justice and compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death, we can help. Our attorneys understand what people are going through when they contact us for assistance with a wrongful death claim. Our goal is to help you find peace and stability in a troubling time – including relieving your financial stress with affordable legal fees. We accomplish this by charging clients on a contingency fee basis. Our fee structure looks like this:
- $0 upfront. We don’t charge a retainer to take your case or start work on a lawsuit.
- $0 in hidden fees. We are always honest and transparent about our fees.
- $0 if we don’t win. If we don’t succeed in obtaining financial compensation for your wrongful death claim, you won’t pay us a dime in legal fees.
- A percentage of the award if we do win. If we win your case, you’ll pay us directly out of the settlement or verdict obtained – not out of your pocket.
With this fee structure, your wrongful death lawsuit won’t cost you anything out of pocket, win or lose. If your case succeeds, we’ll charge our fees by deducting a pre-agreed upon percentage of the overall value of the award. This percentage is typically close to one-third or 33 percent, but it changes from case to case based on the amount of work involved. We make sure we never receive more money than our clients.
Statistically, plaintiffs consistently receive greater compensation with lawyers – even after paying legal fees – than when they self-represent. For more information about how much your wrongful death lawsuit in San Bernardino might cost at our law firm, contact us.
Contact a San Bernardino Wrongful Death Attorney
An experienced San Bernardino wrongful death attorney will make a noticeable difference in the outcome of a wrongful death claim. The attorneys at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP understand how devastating a wrongful death can be. Contact our firm today to schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about your rights to recovery after the untimely death of a loved one.