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If you are visiting this page after the tragic death of a loved one, please accept our sympathy. The untimely and unnecessary loss of a loved one is something no family should ever have to go through. Seek justice against the one responsible with help from the compassionate staff at Rush Injury Law in Novato.
The laws of California allow the surviving family members of a victim of wrongful death to seek civil damages from the party responsible for their loved one’s death. A wrongful death claim functionally replaces a personal injury claim that the victim could have filed if they had survived. These two types of civil actions are very similar in many ways, including the methods required for establishing liability for damages. However, there are also several key differences that any prospective wrongful death claimant must understand if they are to succeed with their claim.
Attempting to navigate any civil claim without legal representation presents a considerable risk of failure for the claimant. The California civil court system is difficult to navigate, entails many procedural steps before a case even reaches a judge for review, and includes many potential complications that the average person will not know how to address. Even under ideal circumstances, the average person with no formal legal training would have significant difficulty completing the civil claim process on their own. Combine this difficulty with the emotional distress caused by a wrongful death and the economic fallout that wrongful deaths often entail, and it would be incredibly challenging for anyone to manage this process successfully on their own.
Hiring an experienced Novato wrongful death lawyer is an investment into the success of your claim. Your legal team will enable you and your family to recover and mourn your loved one with peace of mind knowing your case is in capable and trustworthy hands. Rush Injury Law understands how devastating wrongful deaths can be for any family and our goal as your Novato wrongful death attorneys is to help your family recover as much compensation as California law allows.
Money can’t replace your lost family member, but it can make adjusting to your new reality a bit easier and eliminate much of the financial stress that wrongful deaths often cause. We provide wrongful death representation to clients in San Joaquin, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, and throughout Northern California.
Similar to personal injury claims filed in California, wrongful death claims revolve around “negligence” or a party’s failure to exercise reasonable care in a given situation. It’s also possible to file a wrongful death claim in response to a loved one’s death caused by an intentional act of harm, such as interpersonal violence. While most wrongful death claims pertain to acts of negligence, it is also possible to file a wrongful death claim against an individual who intentionally killed your loved one or who directly caused their death through an intentional act of harm, irrespective of whether they intended to cause the death.
Sadly, a person’s careless or negligent actions often harm unintentional victims. To bring forth a wrongful death suit, you must be able to prove that another’s negligent or intentionally harmful actions caused your loved one’s death. Our firm has successfully pursued death by negligence claims for accidents, including:
California’s wrongful death statutes allow the plaintiffs of a wrongful death action to secure several types of compensation. It is important to note that wrongful death claims serve to compensate the surviving family’s damages, not the damages incurred by the estate of the deceased. When it comes to medical expenses for the deceased’s final medical treatment, the pain and suffering they experienced during their final injury or illness, and other economic losses incurred between the fatal incident and their eventual death, these damages are potentially compensable with a survival action. A survival action reflects the damages the deceased could have claimed if they had survived, whereas a wrongful death claim seeks to compensate the victim’s family for their losses.
The unexpected death of a loved one can cause financial hardship, especially when the victim was the main earner. Surviving family members can seek damages for:
In California, a surviving spouse, domestic partner or surviving children can bring forth a wrongful death suit. In the event the deceased has no spouse or children, the parents or siblings of the deceased can file a claim. California’s wrongful death statute adheres to the law of intestate succession, meaning the right to file a wrongful death claim generally follows the deceased’s line of intestate succession. In the event the deceased has no surviving relatives, the personal representative they have named in their estate plan would have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. Otherwise, anyone who was financially dependent on the deceased or has a valid legal claim to the contents of their estate would have the right to file the wrongful death claim.
There are precise requirements for establishing liability for wrongful death under California state law. First, the plaintiff must identify the defendant or defendants responsible for causing the death. Next, they must prove the defendant was negligent or acted intentionally in a manner that directly caused the death in question. For example, if your loved one died because a drunk driver hit their car at high speed, the drunk driver’s choice to operate their vehicle while intoxicated would be a clear violation of their duty of care to drive responsibly. The final element of proving negligence is establishing that the death would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions. Essentially, the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim must clearly prove that their loved one’s death resulted from the defendant’s negligence or intentional act of harm.
Every wrongful death claim will include unique elements, and your Novato wrongful death lawyer will be instrumental in helping you gather the evidence you may need to clearly establish a defendant’s liability for your loved one’s death. This evidence may include physical evidence such as vehicle computer data, cell phone records, video surveillance footage, traffic camera footage, and eyewitness testimony from the individuals who witnessed the defendant’s negligent or intentionally harmful act occur.
Some wrongful death claims are very complex, and proving fault may be a straightforward process. Expert witnesses can come into play in wrongful death claims that involve highly technical or complicated details. For example, if a wrongful death occurred due to medical malpractice, the plaintiff’s attorney may consult expert witnesses in various medical fields who can testify as to whether the deceased received appropriate medical care or whether their medical team adhered to the appropriate standard of care for their condition. Your Novato wrongful death lawyer can help you determine which aspects of your claim are most challenging and assist you in obtaining the evidence and testimony you will require to succeed with the claim.
There are several procedural steps required for succeeding with any wrongful death claim filed in Northern California. Your Novato wrongful death attorney will guide you through each of these steps and help you hold the defendant accountable for the damages their actions have inflicted on you and your loved ones. The wrongful death claim process begins with a complaint. The plaintiff and their attorney must draft a complaint that includes the identifying information of the party believed to be responsible for the wrongful death and a list of damages sought by the plaintiff. This complaint is filed with the local court, and the court formally serves the defendant with notice of the complaint, offering them the opportunity to respond.
The defendant must provide their response or answer to the complaint within the timeframe allotted by the court. Failure to do so could lead to the court granting a summary judgment to the plaintiff, essentially awarding them the damages listed in their initial complaint. In most cases, defendants will agree to a private settlement with the plaintiffs. Swift settlement typically serves the best interests of both parties. The settlement process unfolds in private, so there will not be any publicly accessible court records detailing the discussions and statements involved in the matter. The defendant can potentially put the situation behind them more quickly while the plaintiff can secure compensation much more quickly than a court trial would allow.
It’s possible for a settlement to prove fruitless for many reasons. The defendant may outright deny liability for the wrongful death, or they may dispute the damages sought by the plaintiff. When private settlement negotiation does not yield acceptable results, the case moves to litigation. Both parties must appear for all required court hearings; the court considers evidence and testimony from both sides and their witnesses; and the judge makes a final decision after hearing and considering all the evidence.
Finding the right Novato wrongful death attorney to represent your wrongful death claim is an essential first step in the claim process. A good attorney will handle your case with compassion and sensitivity while aggressively pursuing the compensation you deserve for your loved one’s sudden death. When you choose Rush Injury Law to represent you in a wrongful death claim in Northern California, we will extend the full range of our firm’s resources and experience to you in handling your case.
You can rely on Rush Injury Law to guide you through every procedural step with the local court, assist you in calculating the full range of your claimable damages, and provide responsive communication throughout the entirety of your case. We know that a wrongful death can easily change your life and that of your family forever, and we want to provide the legal counsel you need to approach this difficult case with confidence and peace of mind.
Time is a critical factor for any wrongful death claim in Northern California. While state law provides a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, it is important to start the process as soon as possible by connecting with an experienced Novato wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after experiencing a wrongful death. Once you have secured legal counsel, you can start building your claim and working toward the recovery you and your loved ones deserve. Schedule a free consultation with a lawyer at our Novato, San Francisco or Santa Rosa office by calling 415-985-7225 or by emailing our firm. Our attorney and staff represent families throughout Marin County and Northern California.
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