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If someone you love has been killed in an accident or through a malicious act, a wrongful death attorney in Orange County can help you get the compensation you deserve. This is an incredibly difficult time in your life so you need an experienced wrongful death lawyer to advocate on your behalf. Here’s what you need to know about wrongful death lawsuits and how we can help.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A claim of wrongful death can apply to personal injury cases in which a victim or victims died. To qualify as wrongful, the death must have occurred due to the negligence of another party or an act that was intended to cause harm. This includes cases of:
- Medical malpractice
- Other avoidable medical errors
- Car accidents involving negligence, like driving under the influence
- Accidents due to defective productsor medications
Of course, there are many other situations that can result in wrongful death claims but these are some of the most common. One instance where wrongful death would not apply, though, is if the death occurred at work. In this scenario, the case would be handled through workers’ compensation, not a personal injury lawsuit.
Determining Liability in Wrongful Death Cases
Although accidents can happen unexpectedly, many of them can be prevented or avoided. When an accident does occur, there is likely a root cause. In many cases, there will be a particular person or business who is responsible for this root cause. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the person who caused the death or allowed it to occur will most likely be the person held liable. Whether the death was intentional or not, the person can still be determined liable and may have to pay restitution.
It is important to note, though, that the standard of proof tends to be much lower in wrongful death cases than it is in criminal cases. What this ultimately means for you is that even if an assailant is acquitted of murder, they can still be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Even if the person never serves any jail time, they may still be required to compensate the victim’s estate.
Survival actions are related to wrongful death claims but the two are not the same, so it is important to understand the difference. A wrongful death claim focuses on the losses the decedent’s beneficiaries will incur as a result of the person’s estate being distributed earlier than expected. A survival action, on the other hand, focuses on the pain and suffering that the victim would have endured had they not died in the incident in question.
How Can Chudleigh Law Help?
When dealing with personal injury cases, especially those involving the death of one or more victims, it is essential that you seek legal counsel. A wrongful death attorney, like those here at Chudleigh Law, can help you navigate the complicated legal waters to give your claim the best chance of success.
We take great pride in our work and the attention to detail we give each and every one of our clients in Irvine and throughout Orange County. We know how challenging it can be to file a wrongful death claim while you are still grieving the loss of your loved one. Our wrongful death lawyers are compassionate and will always treat you with dignity and respect.
When you work with our wrongful death attorneys in Orange County, you can rest assured that we have your best interests at heart at all times. We don’t collect any fees from you until your case settles so there is no need to worry about ongoing legal costs during this trying time. Our job isn’t finished until your case is completely resolved. You can count on us to do everything in our power to achieve a favorable resolution for your case within a reasonable amount of time.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Typically, a representative of the deceased’s estate will file a wrongful death claim. This representative serves on behalf of all surviving members of the victim’s family, as well as any additional beneficiaries. For married individuals, this representative is often the surviving spouse, though it could also be a sibling, adult child or close friend. If the victim in question was a child, their parents or parent can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Minor children can also file wrongful death claims if their parents are the victims of wrongful death.
When it comes to wrongful death cases, generally speaking, it is easier to win cases in which the victim and claimants are closely related. This is the case with:
- Spouses or domestic partners
- Adult or minor children
- Siblings, in some cases
These types of lawsuits are designed to compensate immediate family members for the loss of their loved one. However, others can still make claims if they are named beneficiaries or if their relationship to the deceased was especially close, even if not by blood. Claims from those outside of the immediate family, though, will have greater success if no immediate family members are living. Anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent, like stepchildren, for example, could also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim.
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The specific time frame in which you must file varies from state to state. Here in California, you have two years from the date of the victim’s death to file your wrongful death claim. After two years have passed, no new wrongful death claims will be acknowledged by the court. Because your wrongful death attorney will need time to gather evidence and build your case, it is essential that you get in touch with a legal team in Orange County, like Chudleigh Law, right away.
Once your claim is initiated in California’s civil court, your wrongful death lawyers will continue to work hard on your behalf in an effort to achieve the most favorable resolution possible from your case. At Chudleigh Law, we don’t get paid until you get paid, so don’t let budget worries hold you back from getting in touch with us. We’ll be happy to set you up with a free consultation to discuss your wrongful death case.
What Types of Compensation Could I Be Entitled To?
The financial compensation you receive in a personal injury lawsuit, including wrongful death cases, is called damages. Typically, this money gets divided up between the deceased person’s estate and surviving family members.
Losses Attributed to the Estate
When a person dies earlier than they are expected to, they won’t have as much time to amass wealth in their estate to bequeath to their heirs. Because of this, you may be eligible to claim compensation for:
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- Future lost income
- Medical expenses during the decedent’s final days
Losses Attributed to Surviving Family Members
It is not just the deceased person who suffers in a wrongful death case, but their loved ones as well. You and the other surviving family members can also claim compensation for the loss of:
- Financial support
- Love and companionship
- Household, childcare or other services
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer?
When you work with Chudleigh Law, you will not have to pay a cent until your case is completely resolved. This means no out-of-pocket costs for you throughout the entire legal process. If we are successful in winning your wrongful death lawsuit, we’ll take a percentage of your final settlement amount as payment for our legal services and expertise. Typically, this sum amounts to about 35 to 40 percent of your settlement value. If we are not successful in court, you won’t owe us anything!
In the process of preparing and arguing your case, we may discover that there were other parties involved who are also partially to blame for your loved one’s wrongful death. If you wish to sue more than one individual, we will gladly assist you. As with your initial case, we will never bill you for additional lawsuits until we have resolved them in full.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
What Is Required to Win a Wrongful Death Case?
In order to win your case, you and your legal team will need to prove that the other party was responsible for your loved one’s death. In the state of California, you can prove liability in three ways:
- Negligence or Carelessness – If a person or business fails to complete reasonably expected activities to ensure the safety of others, this can constitute negligence in extreme scenarios. Even minor mistakes can be deemed careless.
- Intentional Wrongs – In this scenario, a person intentionally acted to hurt another person and was aware of the harm they would inflict. In criminal court, a person can be put on trial for murder or assault, possibly resulting in incarceration or some other form of punishment. In civil court, on the other hand, you can sue the person for damages in a wrongful death case, leading to additional financial penalties.
- Strict Liability – In a strict liability case, a person can be held liable for another person’s death, even if their actions were neither negligent nor intentional. This is commonly used in cases involving dog bites, for example. The dog’s owner is responsible for the actions of the dog, even though they, themselves, did not cause the person’s death.
How Are Damages Calculated?
The amount you can claim in damages will depend on a number of factors, including the deceased person’s injuries and manner of death. Your loss of future financial support, medical expenses, funeral costs and diminished inheritance, if applicable, will all be taken into account as well. These losses, called pecuniary injuries, also factor in the age of the deceased, along with their overall health, intelligence, financial situation and both current and potential future earnings.
The court’s goal is to provide you and the other surviving family members with fair and equitable compensation for your losses. However, in order to have the best possible chance of success, you need an Orange County wrongful death lawyer by your side. A wrongful death attorney will advocate for you to maximize your settlement. At the end of your case, your settlement will earn interest dating back to your loved one’s death, bringing you even more in compensation for your loss.
Can I Claim Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Case?
The state of California does not allow the court to award punitive damages to the family of the victim in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, punitive damages can be awarded to the victim’s estate in order to impart a harsher punishment for the party at fault. Of course, surviving family members can claim other damages, as explained above.
What Is the Difference Between Criminal and Civil Court?
In a criminal case, the prosecutor seeks to punish a person accused of breaking the law after proving that the person is guilty of the crime. The burden of proof, meaning what is required to prove guilt or negligence, is much higher in criminal cases than in civil ones, and the penalties tend to be much steeper as well, including prison or even the death penalty in some states.
Civil court, on the other hand, typically involves disputes between individuals or organizations. In the case of wrongful death, the dispute is between the person who caused the victim’s death and the victim’s surviving family. As mentioned above, the burden of proof is typically lower in civil cases, with courts often siding with the victims. In civil court, punishments are financial, awarding a monetary settlement to the plaintiffs in accordance with the severity of the person’s actions or inactions.
Do I Need a Wrongful Death Attorney in Orange County?
You absolutely need a wrongful death lawyer to handle your case in Irvine or anywhere else in Orange County. The other party will undoubtedly have their own attorney or team of attorneys, and you want to have adequate representation on your side to maximize your chances of success. Here at Chudleigh Law, we will gladly assist you with your wrongful death case. Remember, you only have a two-year window in which to file your claim. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation with our Orange County wrongful death attorneys.
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