Timothy J. Ryan & Associates
No Fee Promise
SERVING WRONGFUL DEATH VICTIMS' FAMILIES SINCE 1981
The sudden, inexplicable death of a cherished loved one can tear a family apart. Taking legal action may be the furthest thing from the survivor's mind, but it is important that they discuss their options with a California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. The longer a family waits, the more likely the probability that crucial evidence is lost or destroyed.
The emotional trauma that is gripping the family during this time may be amplified by the sudden financial difficulties it is facing. While the financial compensation received from a lawsuit may not be able to heal the emotional wounds, it will help to ease the financial burden. During this time, a family needs a compassionate attorney who is able to recognize the value of its deceased loved one while at the same time helping the family recuperate from its loss.
If your family has suddenly lost a cherished member, speak with a California wrongful death attorney to learn what your rights are and what steps you need to take to help get your family back on its feet.
Awards And Settlements
New York Mets prospect killed in a rollover accident while leaving spring training.
Highway design lawsuit involving major construction contractors.
Car accident verdict against a tour guide company, auto manufacturer, and tire supplier.
Settlement for a drywall worker who fell from a scaffold.
Verdict for cross-country travel tour that was ejected from a van in a rollover accident.
Settlement for colliding with improperly placed barrels on the freeway.
Where We Serve
Although we provide representation to anyone in the state of California, the majority of those we represent are from the following counties:
Click on any of the above county names and you will be given attorney information more specific to your geographic area.
WHAT IS WRONGFUL DEATH?
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
WHO MAY FILE A CLAIM?
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.
DAMAGES IN A WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT
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.
SHOULD I FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT?
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.
How long does a wrongful death lawsuit take?
The timeline for a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the case itself and unique facts and circumstances it presents. How long a wrongful death lawsuit takes depends almost entirely on the circumstances of the case. Here are a few questions to ask:
- How straightforward is the case? Is there a clear link between causation, liability and damages?
- What type and quality of evidence do you have? What more details and evidence do you need to obtain in addition to what you already have? How difficult will it be to obtain this evidence?
- Are their several parties involved in the case? Is more than one party liable?
- Did the decedent live for some time before dying of the injury? If that is the case, additional evidence may be required to prove that the victim died of complications from the injury and not due to other causes.
In addition to answering the questions, the other significant factor that could determine the duration of a wrongful death action is whether or not you intend to take the case to a trial. This may not be clear until some time passes and negotiations begin between the parties. In the hands of a skilled attorney, you may get a fair settlement within a shorter period of time.
However, if the insurance companies or parties involved in the case deny the claim, you may have to go to trial, which could significantly increase the duration of the wrongful death action. The length of time could depend on how long the discovery process takes, the number of hearing scheduled and pleadings filed, and how long it takes for a jury to be assembled for the trial to take place.
If you need to file a wrongful death action, but are concerned about the timeline, please contact an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help review your case and explain all of your options.
What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement Amount?
One question that is often asked is what the "average" settlement or jury verdict might be in a wrongful death case. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to anticipate a settlement amount or jury award because every wrongful death case is unique. There is no way to compare one case to another. While a majority of wrongful death cases are settled out of court, some do go to trial, and in such cases, there are a number of unknown factors such as the composition of the jury. The amount of compensation you can receive typically depends on a variety of factors. Here are some of those factors.
The Monetary Losses You Have Suffered
When you have just lost a loved one, it can be excruciatingly painful to think about money. No amount of money can replace the loss of a loved one. However, it is also true in many cases that when a loved one dies, especially when he or she is a primary wage earner or breadwinner, families are financially devastated.
For this reason, California law allows family members to receive compensation for some monetary losses they sustain including:
- Funeral and burial expenses: This refers to the amount of money that is typically spent for the decedent's funeral and burial or cremation, and related expenses.
- Lost income and benefits: This is the income and benefits such as pensions, health insurance or retirement benefits you may lose because of your loved one's death.
- Future financial support: If you relied on the decedent for financial support, then his or her death can prove devastating for your family. By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you can receive compensation equal to the amount of monetary support you would receive from your loved one.
- Value of household services: This might include services a spouse might have provided such as cooking or caring from children. After their death, you may have to hire someone else to help you with those tasks. You can also claim those expenses in your wrongful death lawsuit.
There are also a number of non-economic losses or losses that can be challenging to quantify when a loved one has died. California law allows you to receive compensation for losses such as loss of love, care, companionship, moral support, affection, and loss of intimacy. While these losses are very real to you after the death of a loved one, they are more difficult to calculate because it is hard to put a monetary value on them. An experienced Orange County wrongful death lawyer will be able to help evaluate your case and assess the true value of your claim.
While there are a number of wrongful death settlement calculators out there, there are not many that can accurately estimate the value of your settlement. In such cases, it would be in your best interest to contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer who will analyze all aspects of your case and help you secure the maximum possible settlement or jury award.
What Does a Wrongful Death Lawyer Do?
A wrongful death lawyer handles cases for families that have lost a loved one because of the negligence or wrongful act of another party. In addition to handling these types of cases, wrongful death attorneys help families hold responsible parties financially responsible. Our wrongful death lawyers hire consultants and experts who assist us with evaluating the evidence, eyewitness testimony and other information to help develop a strong case.
In terms of proving damages in a wrongful death case, we do our best to show what the decedent meant to his or family members, friends and the community at large. We develop a detailed snapshot of this person so anyone who looks at it – whether it's an insurance company, a judge or jury – is able to see right away that this was a person who was extremely valuable to his or her loved ones, and his or her death is a loss that is absolutely devastating.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a complex matter. The litigation process can itself be time-consuming, complicated and stressful involving a number of rules and procedures. Here are some of the ways in which an attorney can help families that decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
Filing the lawsuit: There are a number of details involved in filing a lawsuit. An attorney will be absolutely meticulous in making sure that the lawsuit contains all the elements and documentation that are required to successfully present your case.
Compiling evidence: You can count on an insurance company or defense lawyer to raise legal defenses in order to avoid liability. Your lawyer will help rebut those challenges and protect your right to recover compensation for your losses.
Negotiating a settlement: It is important to remember that a vast majority of wrongful death lawsuits are settled out of court. However, it is never a good idea to accept a lower settlement just to make the case go away or to avoid trial. Your attorney will use facts and evidence to negotiate the best possible settlement for you.
Representing you in the courtroom: If the defendant refuses to offer you a fair settlement, your attorney will present your case at a jury trial. You need an attorney who has trial experience so he or she can take the case to a jury trial if that becomes necessary.
HOW THE PROCESS WORKS
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.