The death of a friend or loved one is a traumatic experience no matter how it happens. But when that death is caused by the negligence of another person, the stress is increased tenfold. For friends and family, many questions remain about how to handle the situation. Who should call the attorney? When should they call the attorney? What damages can the family receive? The Rush Injury Law team has experience handling these delicate situations. Here's a helpful guide on how to proceed with a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death vs Accidental Death
Remember there's a difference between these two terms. An accidental death is usually the fault of the deceased person. Maybe the person blew a stop sign and got hit by a truck or failed to put on their seatbelt during a wet, rainy day. Wrongful death can only be caused by the negligence of another person. If a driver causes an accident because they had been drinking, then you'll be looking at a wrongful death case.
Who Can Claim Wrongful Death?
The deceased can't claim for themselves, so this task must be undertaken by a family member or loved one. But California law has specific statutes on who can file a claim like this. Usually, the claim must be made by a surviving family member. A spouse or domestic partner and children of the deceased are usually granted this claim without much hassle, but special exceptions can be made for stepchildren, parents, and other relatives if it can be proved they depended on the deceased person for financial stability.
If no direct relatives or dependents exist, a wrongful death claim can still be filed in California by the person who will receive the deceased person's assets. This process is known as intestate succession and usually applies to people who die without making a will.
When Must a Claim Be Filed and What Compensation is Available?
In California, eligible parties must file within two years of the death of their loved one. If you don't file within two years, you'll likely kiss all possible compensation goodbye. Dealing with a wrongful death can take time to overcome, but make sure you don't wait too long to make your claim.
Compensation for wrongful death suits comes in two different methods. First, damages are awarded to the estate of the deceased. These typically cover acts from the time of the incident to the death of the individual. Lost wages, medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, and funeral expenses will fall into this category. Next, damages will be awarded to the surviving family members (or dependants). These can be trickier to value since they fall under the non-economic damages statute. Mental anguish, depression, moral support, and future guidance fall under this heading.
Losing a loved one due to someone else's negligence can devastate families and communities. If you've suffered through the death of a loved one like this, contact Rush Injury Law immediately and schedule a consultation. James Rush will fight to make sure you are properly compensated for having to deal with the unexpected demise of someone you care about.