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Wrongful death comes about when an individual passes away as a result of negligence or reckless behavior on the part of another. Negligence is the failure of an individual to act in a manner that another reasonable person given the same set of circumstances would have. There are four elements in a claim that an attorney must be able to prove:
California laws allow for the surviving family members of the deceased to file a civil law suit on their behalf. The monetary damages they receive are designed to help those who were financially and/or emotionally dependent on the deceased.
Multiple survivors may file the claim. In this case it will be up to their discretion how to divide any award.Who Can Sue?
Once it has been determined that the defendant was responsible for the fatality, the amount of damages to award the family members must be determined. Factors to consider for placing a monetary amount on a case include:
In addition, certain relationships allow for additional factors to be considered:
In addition to these damages being compensated for, a court may elect to impose punitive damages onto the defendant. Punitive damages are awarded when it can be proven that the defendant was purposely or grossly negligent in their actions. Your attorney will inform you if punitive damages can be considered in your case.Assessing Damages
If you have recently lost a loved one and have strong feelings that his or her demise could have been avoided, you should speak with a California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. It may be difficult to discuss monetary issues while you are grieving, but you could be doing other innocent families a disservice by not filing a claim.
Filing a lawsuit can help encourage manufacturers to recall a faulty product or change it altogether before it harms or kills someone else. Seeing large amounts of punitive damages being awarded for certain reckless acts can result in individuals and companies changing their behaviors to avoid the same fate.Should I File?
Once you and your trusted attorney have made the decision to file a claim, they will help guide you from start to finish to ensure that you are rightfully compensated for your loss.
Your attorney is going to gather as much evidence as possible to help you present your case. As the plaintiff, it will be up to your side to provide burden of proof. Even though you have up to two years in California to file a wrongful death claim, you should not wait that long. Your safest bet at being compensated is to hire an attorney while the details of the incident are still fresh.
After all of the paperwork has been filed and evidence gathered, both parties will usually attempt to come to a settlement agreement that both sides are happy with. When you accept a settlement, you are forfeiting your right to a jury trial where a verdict and subsequent award will be decided. You are also giving up the chance that the jury will find in favor of the defendant and you receive no compensation at all.
Whether to accept a settlement or go to trial is a decision that you and your attorney should make together. You will want to take into account whether you can wait for the completion of a trial to receive your compensation and the cost of it. That should be weighed against the possibility of punitive damages and alerting others to a potentially dangerous product or situation.
With years of experience, your California wrongful death attorney has a very good idea of what your case is worth and will aggressively fight on your behalf to ensure that you receive that amount. When it comes to accepting a settlement or going to trial, he will be able to offer you sound guidance.
Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results. We are proud to offer 100% free, confidential consultations.