The death of a loved one is among the most heartbreaking experiences one can ever have. The grief of losing a loved one becomes even more unbearable when the death was caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another individual or entity. Wrongful death lawsuits seek damages, often, monetary compensation for the survivors' loss such as lost wages, medical costs incurred, funeral and burial expenses and loss of love, care and companionship.
Huntington Beach Wrongful Death Cases
Huntington Beach has seen its share of wrongful death lawsuits. Recently, the family of a 71-year-old man who died after a fishing boat capsized off Huntington Beach brought a wrongful death claim against an underwater seafood farm over a broken line that wrapped around the boat's propeller.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the man was fishing on a friend's boat in the area of Catalina Sea Ranch six miles off Huntington Beach when the 25-foot boat overturned after the broken underwater line wrapped around the propeller. The man drowned, but the boat's owner who was also onboard survived. The man's family told the Times that Catalina Sea Ranch's reckless disregard for public safety as they refused to cut the line shows "a persistent effort to place profits over safety."
Also, recently, the father of a Huntington Beach woman killed during the Las Vegas mass shooting filed a lawsuit against the operators of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, concert promoter Live Nation and the manufacturers of a device that allows semiautomatic weapons to mimic a machine gun. The 28-year-od woman was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival with her boyfriend, sister and a friend when she was struck by the second burst of shots fired by Stephen Paddock from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Paddock eventually killed 58 people and injured more than 500 before he took his own life.
The Purpose of a Wrongful Death Claim
It is important to remember that the purpose of filing a wrongful death claim is not often to seek monetary compensation. It is important to remember that families, in addition to losing a loved one, also often lose the financial support the decedent offered. Often times, the decedent is the family's sole breadwinner or primary wage earner. The loss of such a person leaves a family in an emotional and financial crisis.
Families also file a wrongful death lawsuit in order to right a wrong, to help ensure that the negligence or wrongdoing that caused their loved one's death is not repeated. For example, if a person's death was caused by a dangerous roadway condition, the family may sue the city to make sure that officials rectify the dangerous situation, in addition to seeking monetary damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by a representative on behalf of the survivors who suffer the most as the result of the decedent's death. These individuals may include:
Family members: These include immediate family members such as spouses and children and parents of unmarried children. In many cases, family may also include life partners, anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent and a "putative spouse," a person who had a good faith belief that he or she was married to the victim. All of these individuals may have a right to recovery in a wrongful death claim. In some cases, more distant family members such as brothers, sisters and grandparents may also be able to bring wrongful death lawsuits.
Those who suffer financially: Often times, people who suffer financially from the death of the decedent may also be able to bring a wrongful death action for lost care or support, even though they may not be related by blood or marriage to the decedent.
Parent of a deceased fetus: In California, the law states that a fetus is not considered a living person until there has been a live birth. This means that a wrongful death claim cannot be filed to recover compensation for the loss of an unborn child.
Compensation for Victims' Families
The damages in a wrongful death case will depend on the facts and circumstances of the individual case. Damages are typically divided according to whether they compensate the estate for losses associated with the death, or surviving family members for the individual losses they sustained because of the death. Losses that are usually attributed to the estate include the following:
Medical expenses: This includes medical and hospital bills for the deceased person's treatment. It may also include cost of emergency transportation (ambulance, helicopter, etc.), cost of medical equipment, surgeries and so on.
Funeral costs: This will include all costs associated with funeral and burial or cremation. Often funeral expenses could run into thousands of dollars and since wrongful deaths are often sudden and unexpected, families tend to struggle to raise this money at short notice.
Lost income: This might include the loss of potential income the decedent would reasonably have been expected to earn in the future had he or she lives.
Other losses: Losses that are typically attributed to surviving family members include the value of household services, loss of anticipated financial support and the loss of love, affection, community, attention, moral support and guidance.
Get Help from Our Huntington Beach Team
While some of these damages are quantifiable, others including pain and suffering are not. An experienced Huntington Beach wrongful death lawyer will be able to help you file a claim in a timely manner and secure maximum compensation for your losses. In California, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the date of the decedent's death. However, in cases involving governmental agencies, a notice of claim must be filed within 180 days of the decedent's death.
The experienced Huntington Beach wrongful death attorneys at Timothy J Ryan & Associates provide competent and compassionate representation to families who have lost loved ones under traumatic circumstances. Please call us at 1-800-838-6644 to find out how we can help you.