An unexpected death in the family is followed by a period of deep grief and emotional struggle. In such times, even the financial burden of losing a loved one can be crushing. If the death was due to another person’s gross negligence or misconduct, the combination of all these burdens may seem unbearable. Although there is no replacing what is lost when a loved one dies, there can be some relief from the monetary impact that the loss has. Alameda County wrongful death lawyer Stephen M. Fuerch has over 30 years of experience assisting families in wrongful death claims. Mr. Fuerch compassionately advocates for his clients to make sure that those responsible for another person’s death are held accountable.Wrongful Death in California
When a person is killed as a result of another person’s gross negligence or misconduct, a wrongful death claim may arise. Car accidents, truck accidents, or injuries due to a defective product or a fall may result in a wrongful death. Victims who survive these types of accidents may file personal injury suits on their own behalf, but where a victim dies, certain family members are able to pursue a civil suit.
In California, these family members consist of the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, or grandchildren when the decedent’s children are also deceased. In addition, certain relatives who were dependent on the decedent may also file a wrongful death suit. These relatives include a decedent’s putative spouse, stepchildren, and parents.Holding Negligent Individuals Responsible for Your Relative’s Death
If someone else’s wrongful or negligent act led to a family member’s death, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Before damages can be recovered, the defendant’s liability must be proven. Often, negligence is the legal theory upon which wrongful death suits are based. To establish negligence, the decedent’s family member must show that:
- The defendant had a legal duty to the victim to exercise reasonable care;
- That duty was breached;
- That breach proximately caused the victim’s death; and
- The death resulted in damages to the plaintiff.
If your loved one was killed in an accident because a truck driver was drunk, for example, that driver likely would be found negligent for breaching his or her legal duty to drive in a reasonable, sober manner. Additionally, the trucking company employing the drunk driver might be indirectly liable for the truck driver’s carelessness if the accident occurred within the scope of the driver’s employment.
Although it may be difficult to think about a lawsuit during the grieving process, timely action is important because California law requires wrongful death actions to be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. Consulting a knowledgeable attorney is important in preserving your right to compensation and holding those responsible liable for their actions.Damages Recoverable for Wrongful Death
In California, each wrongful death plaintiff is entitled to monetary damages for harm they have suffered and any future harm that may result due to the death of the decedent. Juries determine damages based on calculations for economic as well as non-economic losses sustained by each surviving family member. Economic losses include:
- Expected future financial support during the decedent’s lifetime, had he or she lived
- Loss of expected gifts or benefits
- Medical expenses for the decedent’s injury or illness
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of household services
Non-economic damages may be awarded for loss of love, companionship, comfort, consortium, assistance, care, affection, and support. However, California cases do not allow for damages for mental and emotional distress, including grief and sorrow, in wrongful death actions.Effective Legal Representation For a Wrongful Death Claim
Pleasanton wrongful death attorney Stephen M. Fuerch can assist you in the legal process after losing a family member due to someone else’s misconduct or negligence. With over three decades of dedication to clients in Dublin, Hayward, Contra Costa County and throughout the East Bay, Mr. Fuerch has the knowledge and experience to pursue a wrongful death action on your behalf. Please call (925) 463-1073 or email us to schedule a free consultation about your case.