Losing a loved one is a very painful and traumatic event. Many times, family members dealing with wrongful death cases must carry the financial burden, not just immediately but also in the future. Financial losses incurred by family members may include but are not limited to the decedent’s medical expenses, funeral or burial costs, and lost future earnings. Additionally, family members also suffer from losses that are more difficult to calculate such as pain and suffering.
Fatal accidents caused by another person’s negligence may justify a wrongful death claim. The decedent’s surviving family has the right to seek and recover damages against the party at fault. If you lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligent behavior, you have the right to seek compensation for your loss. Contact a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer today and let us help you get the justice you deserve.
Here are shortcuts to the specific topics:
- 1. Wrongful Death Attorney in Los Angeles
- 2. What Qualifies as Wrongful Death in California?
- 3. When Should You Get a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
- 4. How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
- 5. Why Choose Mesriani Wrongful Death Attorneys
- 6. Most Important Things to Know About Wrongful Death
- 7. What Damages are Available for a Wrongful Death Case?
- 8. Is Wrongful Death a Crime?
- 9. Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
- 10. Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California
- 11. When Wrongful Death Is Caused by Malpractice?
- 12. Is There a Cap on Wrongful Death?
- 13. Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case
- 14. Qualities of Great Wrongful Death Lawyers
- 15. How to Contact Mesriani Law Group
- 16. Wrongful Death Lawyer FAQs
William J. Kropach, Esq.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death in California?
Many serious accidents can leave victims with serious injuries or even death. While not every accident-related death is considered a wrongful death, a lot of them are. Wrongful death is often the result of someone else’s wrongful act or negligence. When someone fails to exercise a reasonable amount of care to avoid harm to another person, this is considered negligence. In California, the law allows for certain surviving family members to sue the party at fault.
When Should You Get a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
No one can prepare for the unexpected loss of a loved one. The pain, suffering, and grief surviving family members must endure are overwhelming. Although nothing can bring back the loss of a loved one, the law provides a legal remedy in the case of wrongful death. For over 20 years, Mesriani Law Group has helped clients obtain justice and compensation with wrongful death cases.
If your family suffered a loss due to the negligence of someone else, our compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorneys at Mesriani Law Group can help. To learn more, contact our law office today to discuss your claim.
How a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help
Mesriani Law Group is a Los Angeles personal injury law firm that specializes in helping surviving families get through the tragedy of losing a loved one. The unexpected loss of a loved one is someone no one can prepare for. It’s even harder to cope with the loss when the death is the result of someone else’s wrongdoing.
During these difficult times, our compassionate and understanding attorneys are here to answer any questions you may have. We’ve helped clients navigate the legal system so they can focus on moving forward.
Here are some of the top reasons how a wrongful death attorney can help:
Filing a Lawsuit
Numerous requirements must be met in order to successfully file a wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced attorney will be able to promptly and correctly file your lawsuit. Even in the case of a strong defense, a wrongful death attorney knows how to present your case persuasively to obtain a successful result.
A wrongful death attorney will gather various types of evidence for your case through investigations, depositions, police reports, document requests, and more. Using the evidence, your attorney will prepare the strongest case possible in your favor.
Defending Your Claim
The defense will counter any evidence you might present by providing their evidence. A wrongful death attorney will be able to challenge anything the defense brings up and ensure you will be able to obtain the compensation you deserve.
Negotiating Your Settlement
A wrongful death attorney will negotiate the best possible settlement in your favor. If the settlement offer is unfair or too low, your attorney will use new evidence and arguments to negotiate until you receive the fairest settlement offer.
Going to Court
While a majority of wrongful death cases are settled outside of court, your attorney will be prepared to take your case to trial if necessary. If the other party refuses to make a fair settlement, a wrongful death attorney will present your strongest case possible in court.
Why Choose Mesriani Law Group for Your Wrongful Death Lawyer
Most Important Things to Know About Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims are much different than other types of legal cases. In most cases, the victim can file a claim to seek compensation for their injuries. But in a wrongful death case, the victim is unable to bring forward a claim. Due to this, there are several noteworthy differences between most legal cases and wrongful death cases. Here are the most important things you should know about a wrongful death case:
Not Everyone is Entitled to File a Claim
Only certain people can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. In California, a wrongful death claim can be filed by surviving family members including a spouse, domestic partner, or children.
Statute of Limitations
A wrongful death claim must be filed before the statute of limitations expire. In California, the deadline to file a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the victim’s death.
Compensation Can Be Substantial
A successful wrongful death lawsuit can result in substantial compensation. For example, if the decedent’s future earning potential was significant, this could result in a large number of damages awarded.
Most Cases are Settled Out of Court
While a small number of wrongful death cases go to trial, most cases settle out of court. A majority of the time, both parties will reach a settlement through negotiation.
A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
Wrongful death cases are complex. In addition to making sure all of the requirements are met to bring forward a claim, it also takes exceptional legal strategy and negotiation skills to successfully win a case. Seek the professional help of a wrongful death lawyer to ensure you will get the justice and maximum compensation your family deserves.
What Damages are Available for a Wrongful Death Case?
While nothing can replace your loved one, financial recovery, also called damages, can help address the financial impact of your loss. According to California law, various surviving family members can recover damages after successfully winning a wrongful death case. However, the damages each party can recover vary depending on their personal and specific loss from the death. For example, the amount of damages a spouse may recover could be different than that of a stepchild.
For these reasons, it’s difficult to say exactly how much you can recover without understanding your full situation. It is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney to learn about the damages you can recover for your specific loss. California wrongful death law allows surviving family members to recover both economic and noneconomic losses. Common examples of damages a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney may help you recover include:
- Estimated amount of future earnings (including income and benefits)
- Reasonable funeral, burial, and cremation expenses
- Household services that would have been provided by the victim including cooking, cleaning, and childcare)
- Household financial support
- Loss of love, affection, emotional support, companionship, care and comfort, and assistance
- Loss of intimate relationship (if the victim was a spouse or domestic partner)
- Loss of guidance and training (if the victim was a parent or spouse)
Once your attorney has helped you identify the possible types of damages you may recover for your wrongful death case, the next step is to calculate the exact amount you are seeking.
Some damages are easier to calculate since they are easily quantifiable. For example, economic losses such as funeral or burial costs can be quantified with receipts or bills. Keep in mind that you will only get reimbursed for reasonable expenses.
This means that if you threw an extremely extravagant funeral and reception for your loved one, you may not receive reimbursement for the entire amount. It’s likely that you may only get reimbursed for a part of total expenses that was deemed reasonable.
On the other hand, calculating damages such as lost future earnings is more challenging. Various factors must be taken into consideration such as:
- The age of the victim and the amount of years they were expecting to work
- The skills, education, and abilities of the victim
- The victim’s potential for raises, promotions, or other financial earnings through the course of their career
- Retirement and benefits account contributions the victim would have received
- Inflation related to how wages and earnings would have been adjusted
Calculating the exact amount of damages is a complex process as it takes into account numerous factors. Seek the help of an experienced attorney who has the resources and skills who can accurately calculate the maximum damages you may possibly recover.
Damages Not Available in a Wrongful Death Claim
Certain damages cannot be recovered under a wrongful death claim since they have nothing to do with the losses of the surviving family members. In California, these losses may be recovered in a survival action claim. Losses in a survival action claim relate to the losses of the victim, between the time of the accident and the time of death.
Common examples of these types of losses include medical expenses prior to the victim’s death and pain and suffering. Punitive damages may also be recovered if the actions of the party at-fault were grossly negligent or intentional.
Is Wrongful Death a Crime?
No, a wrongful death claim is not considered a crime. However, the situation and circumstances leading to a wrongful death claim may initiate a criminal investigation or prosecution. Here’s the difference between the two types of cases:
Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits brought forward by private attorneys. If the lawsuit is successful, victims receive monetary compensation from the party at-fault. While it’s possible that a crime such as murder could also lead to a wrongful death claim, not all wrongful death claims involve criminal acts.
Criminal lawsuits, on the other hand, are initiated by a district attorney or prosecutor. The district attorney’s office will ultimately decide if they want to bring criminal charges against the party at fault. If the state wins a criminal case, the result is typically jail time, fines, or both.
It’s very possible for both civil and criminal lawsuits to happen at the same time. Note that the state’s decision to bring forward a criminal lawsuit has nothing to do with your right to file a civil lawsuit. However, some states do require civil lawsuits to be placed on hold until criminal charges are first addressed.
How Hard Is It to Prove If Wrongful Death Is a Crime?
Proving a wrongful death claim may not be easy but it is possible with the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney. Similar to other negligence claims, there are four elements that must be established in order to prove wrongful death including:
1. Duty of Care
Under California law, people often owe a duty of care to others. It’s the legal obligation that a person has requiring them to act with caution towards others. For example, drivers have a duty to obey traffic laws to avoid unnecessary accidents. In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent.
2. Breach of That Duty
However, simply providing a duty of care is not enough to prove wrongful death. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant violated or breached that duty.
California law requires the plaintiff to establish a relationship between their loss and the breached duty of care. Essentially, the plaintiff must prove the link of cause and effect between one action or event and the result. If the plaintiff fails to establish causation, then they’re not entitled to damages.
Lastly, the plaintiff must show that they have suffered from quantifiable damages as a result of the wrongful death. This is the monetary loss a plaintiff suffered.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
Every wrongful death case requires three elements that must be satisfied. In California, a plaintiff must prove all four of the following elements in order to receive compensation:
1. Accidents and Intentional Acts
A wrongful death can be the result of an accident or an intentional act.
There are numerous types of accidents that can result in a wrongful death lawsuit. Common types of accidents include:
- Vehicle accidents including commercial truck accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Plane or boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Defective products
- Accidents at work
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Slip and fall accidents
- Fire and explosions accidents
When a party acts with intention to directly cause harm to another, it’s considered an intentional act. Common examples of intentional acts include:
- Any other intentional act meant to cause harm
To win a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove that the party at-fault’s negligence was the cause of their loved one’s death. For example, although you may not be able to sue a car manufacturer for the wrongful act of a driver, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against them if the death was the result of a defective part or service.
Lastly, a plaintiff must prove that the death of their loved one is responsible for the loss of financial support, emotional support, and household contributions. Other common types of losses a loved one may suffer include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of guidance or protection, and pain and suffering.
Without the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney, it will be difficult to prove all four elements in a wrongful death case. Additionally, it will also be challenging to accurately calculate the amount of damages you’re entitled to receive.
Filing A Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California
When a loved one suffers a death due to the negligence of someone else, a wrongful death claim can be filed. In California, certain family members are allowed to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent. The laws specify that the highest priority is given to household family members including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, minor children, dependent stepchildren, dependent parents, or dependent minors living in the same household have priority to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
In the event that there are no surviving household family members, other family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Other family members who may file a lawsuit include parents, siblings, children of the decedent’s siblings, grandparents, and the children of the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner.
Time Frame for a Wrongful Death Case
The time frame for a wrongful death case will vary depending on the situation including:
When Proof of Negligence is Clear
For example, when a driver hits a pedestrian who is using a crosswalk, it would be reasonably simple to establish that the driver is negligent.
When Negligence is Difficult to Prove
For example, a slip and fall accident at a construction worksite. Since there may be multiple parties involved including the construction company, other workers on site, or equipment manufacturers, the process of establishing negligence may be more difficult. It will require more time to interview each of the potential parties responsible and to collect all pieces of evidence related to the case.
Amount of Time it Takes Until a Settlement is Awarded
With wrongful death lawsuits, typically the insurance company is the party that pays for the insured responsible party. However, insurance companies are notoriously known for trying to pay the victim’s family as little as possible. If you have a wrongful death claim, don’t let insurance companies give you a lowball settlement offer. With the help of a qualified wrongful death attorney, your family can receive the maximum compensation and justice for your loss.
Still, wrongful death cases require thorough investigations which may take months or years. The typical jury trial for wrongful death lawsuits takes about 1 to 2 years from the date of the accident until the settlement is awarded. Some wrongful death cases end up going to court because insurance companies try to offer the lowest settlement possible.
Who Can File a Lawsuit During a Wrongful Death
In California, only certain family members are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Priority to file a wrongful death lawsuit is given to household family members including:
- The surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Minor children
- Dependent stepchildren
- Dependent parents
- Dependent minors living in the same household
If there are no surviving household family members, the following people may file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Children of the decedent’s siblings
- Children of the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner
For their loss, family members who file the lawsuit may be entitled to financial compensation for the following damages:
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of household services
- Funerial, burial, or cremation costs
- Loss of love, comfort, care, or companionship
- Loss of a spouse or domestic partner’s intimacy
- Loss of protection, guidance, or training
- Loss of anticipated benefits or gifts
When Wrongful Death Is Caused By Malpractice
The term malpractice refers to the improper or negligent activity on the part of a professional. One of the most common types of malpractice is medical malpractice– which occurs when a medical or healthcare professional causes injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission.
Medical malpractice can take various forms but some of the most common examples that may lead to a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
- Ignoring or misreading lab results
- Improper medication or dosage
- Unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors
- Premature discharge
- Poor aftercare or follow-up
- Failure to recognize certain symptoms
- Failure to order certain type of testing
- Failure to take appropriate patient history
When a patient dies as a result of medical malpractice, a wrongful death claim may be filed by surviving family members. A wrongful death claim may offer loved one a chance to seek justice and compensation for their loss from the party at-fault. In medical malpractice cases, parties at-fault may include:
- Hospital administrators
Losing a loved one is never easy. If you lost a loved one due medical malpractice, you deserve justice. Seek the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney and discuss your legal options to obtain the justice your family deserves.
Is There a Cap on Wrongful Death?
Most states have a cap on the maximum recovery amount on wrongful death claims. Most damage caps will vary with the total dollar amount as well as the damages the cap is applied to.
Generally, California law does not place a cap on compensatory damages in personal injury cases. Compensatory damages fall into two categories: economic and non-economic damages.
However, the exception to this law are medical malpractice lawsuits which have a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. This cap is applied regardless of the severity of the injuries or number of victims. There may be other exceptions depending on the specific situation. Seek the help of a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to find out the maximum compensation you may be entitled to for your wrongful death claim.
Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case
The term statute of limitations refers to the time limit a person has to bring forward a lawsuit. If a lawsuit isn’t filed before the statute of limitation expires, the claim will most likely get dismissed.
In California, the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the date of the victim’s death. For example, a person dies immediately in a serious car accident. In this case, the victim’s family will have two years from the date of the accident to file a legal claim. If the case is not filed in the civil court system within two years, the family will most likely lose the right to file it at all.
However, there are some exceptions to the two-year limit including the discovery rule. The discovery rule states that the statute of limitation does not start until the surviving family members discover the death of the victim. In this case, the surviving family may have more than time to file a wrongful death case.
Qualities of Great Wrongful Death Lawyers
Finding a great wrongful death lawyer is the first step towards winning your lawsuit. To make sure you have the best chance at obtaining justice for your loved one, here are some qualities of a great lawyer you should look for:
- They have successfully obtained maximum compensation for wrongful death lawsuits
- They have handled a lawsuit similar to yours
- They have a high success rate
- You trust and like working with them
- They will fight for you regardless of the cost
- They will accept your case on a contingency basis, meaning that if they don’t win your case, you don’t pay them anything
How to Contact Mesriani Law Group
If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence or misconduct of someone else, we strongly recommend that you contact Mesriani Law Group as soon as possible. Our law firm has successfully recovered millions in settlements for our clients and consistently fights for the maximum compensation.
Our principal partner, Rodney Mesriani is an experienced litigator and trial attorney who specializes in personal injury law. We have main offices in Los Angeles and Santa Monica with satellite offices in the San Fernando Valley and Irvine.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. We offer a no win no fee policy which means that if we don’t win your case, you don’t pay us anything.
Wrongful Death FAQ’S
What qualifies as wrongful death?
Wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due another person’s negligence or misconduct. Depending on the state, certain surviving family members who suffered from the decedent’s death may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How much is a wrongful death lawsuit worth?
California’s wrongful death law allows surviving family members to recover both economic and noneconomic losses. However, the damages for a wrongful death lawsuit vary depending on the personal and specific loss from the death. Due to this, it’s highly recommended that you speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney to learn about the damages you can recover for your specific loss.
How hard is it to prove wrongful death?
Proving a wrongful death claim may not be easy but it’s possible with the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney. Like other negligence claims, there are four elements that must be established in order to prove wrongful death including duty of care, breach of that duty, causation, and damages.
What are the grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit?
In order to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need evidence to show that someone was negligent and that negligence was the cause of your loved one’s death. Your family may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit regardless if the death was accidental or intentional.