an excellent wrongful death attorney

Timothy J. Ryan

Awards and Settlements
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Although we provide representation to anyone in the state of California, the majority of those we represent are from the following counties:

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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:

  • That the defendant had a duty to care for the well-being of the decedent
  • That in some form, the defendant breached that duty of care
  • That the fatality was directly caused by that breach of duty
  • That damages resulted as a result of the breach
Wrongful Death Guide

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.

Individuals allowed to file a wrongful death claim include:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse and children
  • Non-legal spouses and their children if the decedent had entered into a marriage under false pretenses
  • The decedent’s domestic partner
  • The decedent’s parents and siblings
  • Children of a deceased sibling
  • Lineal descendants, including grandparents
  • Any other person who depended on the decedent financially at the time of their demise

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:

  • The relationship between the deceased and the plaintiff
  • How much of the decedent’s net income was available to the plaintiff
  • The monetary value of the decedent’s services to the plaintiff
  • Expenses incurred as a result of the fatality, including medical care and funeral costs
  • The life expectancy of both the deceased and the survivor

In addition, certain relationships allow for additional factors to be considered:

  • A spouse is entitled to loss of companionship and protection as well as mental pain and suffering as a result of their loss
  • Children of the deceased can receive compensation for loss of companionship, guidance, and instruction in addition to mental pain and suffering
  • The parents of the decedent may receive compensation for mental pain and suffering

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.

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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.