It is impossible to place a dollar amount on the life of a loved one; however, when a loved one is taken away from you due to the negligent, careless, or reckless acts of another party, you are entitled to damages. The grief of losing a family member as the result of an accident or negligent act is often compounded with financial burdens such as medical bills, funeral costs, and the loss of income for the family.
Family members are left with questions about who is liable and what they can do about the death of their loved one. Our Orange County wrongful death attorneys understand the grief and loss associated with these cases; therefore, they deal with the legal aspects of wrongful death cases so that the family can focus on the grieving and healing process. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, you may be eligible to file an action to receive compensation from the responsible party or parties.
Is someone at fault? How is fault determined?
A wrongful death can occur because of almost any situation; however, the main element is that the person died due to the fault of another party. When someone dies, as the result of another person or company's actions or inactions, that person or company should be held liable.
These lawsuits are initiated by the surviving family members of the person who has been killed due to the negligent, reckless or careless acts of another party. Each state's laws vary; however, in California, the surviving spouse has priority to file an action for a wrongful death claim. If there is no spouse, then the victim's children or grandchildren can file a lawsuit followed by siblings, parents, and other family members.
Main elements of a case
According to California Civil Code 1708, “Every person is bound, without contract, to abstain from injuring the person or property of another or infringing upon any of his rights.” There are four main elements that the plaintiff must prove in order to recover damages:
1. The loss of the family member was caused by the actions of the defendant.
2. The defendant was negligent, careless or reckless in some manner that caused the loss of the plaintiff, and the defendant is, therefore, liable for damages as a result of the plaintiff's demise.
3. There are surviving dependents or beneficiaries of the plaintiff such as a spouse and/or children.
4. The surviving dependents or beneficiaries have suffered monetary damages as the result of losing the plaintiff (their family member).
These claims fall under three categories:
- Negligence – The defendant did not set out to intentionally end the victim's life; however, as a result of his or her careless or reckless behavior, the victim suffered fatal injuries.
- Intentional – The defendant knew his or her actions would result in the injury or loss of another person but willfully and recklessly disregarded the safety of the other party.
- Strict Liability – This is imposed on some defendants due to the type of activity involved such as storing explosives or owning vicious animals. The degree of fault is the same regardless of how careful they may have been in trying to protect others.
A party has two years from the date of loss to file an action. It is important to seek the counsel of an experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights to file a claim.
What types of cases are common in Orange County, California?
In every situation where a person dies as the result of negligence, recklessness or carelessness, the surviving family members may have a cause for action. Wrongful death accidents are one of the most common types of personal injury cases. These are the most common types of cases in Orange County:
- Automobile accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Products liability or defective products cases
- Slip and fall cases
- Medical malpractice
- Swimming pool accidents
- Premises liability cases
- Construction or work-related accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Boating accidents
The most common types of wrongful death cases in Orange County involve some type of automobile or motorcycle accident. In most cases, the injury is caused by the negligence or reckless behavior of another driver. Unfortunately, as the number of drivers and automobiles on the road increases, the number of wrongful death cases will also increase.
Medical malpractice is another top cause for wrongful death cases. As medical facilities and medical providers are forced to treat an ever-increasing number of patients in a shorter amount of time, mistakes are going to happen. When a loved one dies due to the negligent or careless acts of a medical provider or medical facility, the surviving family members have the legal right to pursue the responsible party for damages suffered by the loss of a loved one.
Orange County is growing and with that growth the risk of wrongful death actions due to construction accidents, equipment malfunctions, fires and other accidents that are associated with a growing community increase. In each of these situations, there is the possibility that someone was liable for your loved one's injury and, if so, that person or company should be held accountable for your loss.
What do these cases accomplish?
The sudden loss of a loved one is emotionally and financially devastating for the family. This is especially true when the loss could have been prevented or was the result of the negligence of another party. The first and foremost reason to sue the liable party is to hold the party accountable for its actions and make it take responsibility for the loss of your family member. This includes making the party compensate you for funeral and medical bills, loss of financial support, and the emotional pain and suffering caused by the loss of a family member.
Second, holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions benefits society. By making individuals and companies liable for their negligent, careless, or reckless actions, you are sending a message that we, as a society, will not tolerate this type of behavior. You may also help prevent another family from suffering the loss of a loved one because your lawsuit results in the defendant changing their behavior, product or standard. For example, if a defective product caused the loss of your husband, your lawsuit may result in the product being removed from the market or changed so that it does not hurt anyone else.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is much more than simply asking for monetary damages; it is about holding the liable party responsible and accountable for what occurred.
Where can family members receive help in Orange County to deal with the loss of a loved one?
Family members who have lost a loved one can become crippled with grief. Seeking medical assistance and/or support to help cope with the loss of a loved one can often help you deal with the fear, pain, grief, and anger that follow the loss of a close member of the family. The feelings of rage and even guilt can be much stronger when the loss was due to an accident that could have been prevented. Especially in these cases, seeking help to deal with the grief is an important part of the healing process.
There are several groups in Orange County that assist families dealing with the loss of their loved ones. You can contact one of these groups or see your family doctor for help.
- Lakeview Senior Center Loss of Spouse Bereavement Group
- Comfort Zone Camp (For children and young adults who have recently lost their mother or father, sibling or primary caregiver.)
- Grief Haven (For parents who have lost a child.)
- Mariposa Women and Family Center
- C.A.R.E. Counseling Center
- Memorial Care Health System
- Hoag Pastoral Care
How Our Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyers Help
Having assisted victims of negligence for over thirty-five years, you can count on one of our Orange County wrongful death lawyers to provide you and your family with the legal services you need to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Call (800) 838-6644 today to obtain a free case evaluation and to learn more about our “no win, no fee” policy. There is no wrongful death attorney fee if you don't win.