The death of a loved one can be a very difficult experience, both emotionally and financially. In addition to the grief and sadness that you may feel, a sudden loss can result in unexpected funeral and burial costs and significant medical expenses. The loss of income, benefits, and other forms of support is also common. If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit. In these situations, the attorneys at Freedman Law can represent your case and fight diligently for your family’s best interests. Our wrongful death lawyers in Fresno are dedicated to securing justice on your loved one’s behalf.
A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another may be asserted by any of the persons described in the next section, or by the decedent’s personal representative on his behalf [Code of Civ. Proc., §377.60].
Because once a person’s death is caused by a civil wrong (a tort), the decedent cannot sue for his own damages. The decedent’s pain and suffering is no longer compensable. The decedent’s past and future loss of earnings are no longer compensable unless a third party would have recovered some benefit from those earnings. So, if the decedent no longer has a cause of action against the wrongdoer, who can sue?
If someone else caused an accident, intentionally harmed your loved one, or committed a crime and your loved one died as a result, you could file a wrongful death claim. Your family can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit at the same time as a criminal case over the same incident.
Generally, your loved one’s case qualifies as a wrongful death if he or she could have pursued a personal injury claim against the at-fault party for the same incident. However, it is important to speak with a lawyer to determine if you qualify.
At Freedman Law, our attorneys represent lawsuits involving a wide range of accidents and negligent acts. We often handle wrongful death claims that involve the following types of accidents and injuries.
In order for any of these claimants (plaintiffs) to recover, they must still prove that the wrongful act of the tortfeasor (defendant) was a substantial factor in causing of the wrongful death.
In the event a person entitled to recover for wrongful death damages dies away before a settlement or verdict, your losses cannot be recovered by another family member. A personal injury claim is a personal loss and when someone passes away, their right to pursue a personal injury claim such as a wrongful death claim passes away with them.
To secure compensation in a California wrongful death claim, you and your family will need to prove that the at-fault party’s actions are responsible your loved one’s death. You will need to show that the at-fault party was negligent, leading to the final illness or injury.
There are four elements of negligence in a California wrongful death lawsuit.
When an individual is injured, they can make a claim for
General damages for a Plaintiff usually consists of:
These general damages are not available in a wrongful death claim. Common sense would indicate that when you lose a loved one, the biggest element of a plaintiff’s damage is the grief, sorrow and mental anguish suffered as a result of the loss. However, in California the jury is specifically instructed that it cannot compensate for these damages [CACI 3921]. This is also true for any compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering. Therefore, if the decedent was severely burned or became a quadriplegic from the accident and subsequently died from those injuries, no compensation can be awarded for the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before his death [CACI 3921].
Similarly if a person who is entitled to wrongful death damages, themselves pass away before settlement or verdict, their wrongful death claim passes with them. For example, if a mother and father have filed a wrongful death claim for the loss of their minor child, and the mother passes away before the case has settled or reached a verdict, the value of the loss will then only be determined by the loss of the surviving father.
Punitive damages, those designed to punish the defendant rather than to compensate the family or others entitled to recover for the loss, can only be awarded in cases where plaintiffs prove the person or company which caused the death was “guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice” [Civil Code section 3294].
Plaintiff can claim the following economic damages:
Your award of any future economic damages must be reduced to present cash value. Plaintiff also claims the following noneconomic damages:
No fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of noneconomic damages. You must use your judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence and your common sense. [Your award for noneconomic damages should not be reduced to present cash value.] In determining plaintiff’s loss, do not consider:
In deciding a person’s life expectancy, you may consider, among other factors, the average life expectancy of a person of that age, as well as that person’s health, habits, activities, lifestyle, and occupation. This information is evidence of how long a person is likely to live but is not conclusive. Some people live longer and others die sooner.
In computing these damages, consider the losses suffered by all plaintiffs and return a verdict of a single amount for all plaintiffs. It will be divided the amount among the plaintiffs. Common sense would indicate that when you lose a loved one, the biggest element of a plaintiff’s damage is the grief, sorrow and mental anguish suffered as a result of the loss.
However, in California the jury is specifically instructed that it cannot compensate for these damages [CACI 3921]. This is also true for any compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering. Therefore, if the decedent was severely burned or became a quadriplegic from the accident and subsequently died from those injuries, no compensation can be awarded for the pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before his death [CACI 3921].
Navigating a California wrongful death claim can be challenging, especially after losing a loved one. In these situations, an attorney can guide you and your family through the litigation process and handle all aspects of the case on your behalf.
By hiring a Fresno wrongful death lawyer, you gain access to several key benefits, including the following.
If you lost a loved one due to another person’s wrongful actions, the attorneys at Freedman Law can help. We can represent your family in a wrongful death lawsuit and hold the at-fault party accountable.
Our firm is dedicated to securing justice on your loved one’s behalf and will fight diligently to protect your family’s rights. Contact us online or call today to discuss your legal options with a Fresno wrongful death lawyer.