Losing a loved one unexpectedly is a tragic event that could challenge a family’s ability to cope. If the death was the result of someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act, it can be even more difficult to make sense of the loss.
When a loved one dies because of someone else’s negligence, there are two legal remedies available. A family member could bring a wrongful death lawsuit, and the decedent’s estate could bring a survival action. Sometimes, it is possible to combine a wrongful death claim and a survival suit, as a knowledgeable attorney could further explain.
Holding the responsible parties accountable by seeking damages for the loss of your loved one could provide some satisfaction. A Burbank wrongful death lawyer might be able to help you find closure.
A wrongful death action seeks to hold a wrongdoer responsible for the financial losses the family suffered because of their loved one’s death. The person bringing the suit (plaintiff) is a family member, unless the decedent has no surviving family.
A spouse or registered domestic partner or the decedent’s children could be the plaintiff in a wrongful death action, according the California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60. If the decedent left no surviving spouse, partner, or child, the parents could bring an action. In addition, anyone who depended on the decedent for more than 50 percent of their support has standing to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced attorney could identify the appropriate plaintiffs in a particular case.
The plaintiff must prove that the death was more likely than not the result of the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act. Sometimes, defendants in wrongful death actions also face criminal charges for the act that resulted in the death. A plaintiff could bring a successful wrongful death action even if the defendant was not convicted of a crime.
Damages in a successful wrongful death case could include:
If the decedent survived for any amount of time after the action that caused their death, their estate could bring a suit seeking damages for the decedent’s injuries and suffering. The estate’s representative is the plaintiff in a survival lawsuit. In many cases, but not all, the plaintiff in the wrongful death suit and the survival action are the same person.
Damages go to the decedent’s estate and are distributed to the decedent’s heirs after the payment of any estate debts. The damages could include medical expenses related to the fatal injury and income the decedent lost in the interval between the wrongful act and their death. Importantly, the estate could seek punitive damages in a survival action.
Punitive damages punish a defendant for callously irresponsible or intentional behavior and are not related to the plaintiff’s losses. Instead, a court will consider the egregiousness of the defendant’s actions and their financial condition and make an award large enough to have a deterrent effect. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in the area could advise about whether punitive damages might be appropriate in a specific case.
Statutes of limitations are laws defining the timeframe in which people can bring lawsuits. Although the same event might form the basis of both a wrongful death and a survival lawsuit, different timeframes govern the two actions.
California law allows plaintiffs two years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a wrongful death action. In a survival action, the estate must file the lawsuit within two years of the act that eventually caused the decedent’s death or six months after the death. A capable attorney could ensure that the plaintiffs meet all statutory deadlines and preserve their rights to seek damages from the party responsible for the decedent’s death.
It could be difficult for grieving families to focus on practical matters like seeking damages when they are still trying to process the loss of their loved one. However, when someone’s wrongful act results in loss of life, it is important for the people most affected to take action.
Trust a Burbank wrongful death lawyer to handle your case capably and with sensitivity. Schedule a consultation to discuss your legal options as soon as you can.
Benji Personal Injury – Accident Attorneys, A.P.C.