Wrongful Death Claim Lawyer Irvine, Orange County
Wrongful death charges are usually pursued when a criminal action has failed to hold a person or entity at fault for the death of a family member or other close individual. When someone (or some entity), is responsible for a death of a person, that person’s survivors may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to seek damages such as lost earnings and companionship, as well as reimbursement for funeral or burial expenses. At Advocate Law Firm, our attorneys handle wrongful death cases throughout Southern California including Irvine, Orange County, Anaheim, Inland Empire, and San Diego.
How can a wrongful death claim be proved?
The term “wrongful death” means that someone is at legal fault for the death of another. Though wrongful death is a relatively new legal concept, during the past century all state and federal courts have approved the right to wrongful death action.
Wrongful death charges may be brought again individuals, companies, and government agencies, if there is perceived intention or negligence involved in the death. Negligence means that the person or entity failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted under similar circumstances.
What are some of the situations involving wrongful death?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed against a broad range of individuals, companies, government agencies and employees, including:
- Doctors, nurses, physician assistants and other medical professionals for medical malpractice
- Drivers, or employers of drivers, in automobile accidents
- Construction companies, designers or builders responsible for faulty products or structures
- Government agencies for failure to supervise, warn, or administer effectively
- Manufacturers, distributors or installers of defective products or parts
- Persons who sold, served, or distributed alcohol or narcotics to those who caused the death
It should be noted that, in some cases, immunity is granted for government agencies and employees, but this varies from state to state.
Who are “real parties in interest”?
“Real parties in interest” are survivors who suffer directly from the decedent’s passing. These are the people entitled to bring wrongful death lawsuits. Although strict definitions of these parties may differ from state to state, they typically include immediate family members, such as spouses, children and parents of unmarried children.
In some states, the category may also include domestic or life partners and anyone who has been financially dependent upon the decedent, even if not a blood relative, such as a “putative spouse,” a person who had reason to believe that he or she was married to the victim. In other states, brothers and sisters of the deceased may be included, as may grandparents, particularly if they are raising the deceased’s children. In some states, parents of a fetus that is born alive and dies later may pursue wrongful death suits.
Types of Damages Awarded in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Again, these damages vary a great deal from state to state. Generally, there are three types of damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Economic damages include medical and funeral expenses related to the death, loss of the victim’s expected earnings over a typical lifetime, loss of benefits (such as medical coverage or pension plans), loss of inheritance because of the untimely death, and the value of goods and services the victim would have provided had he or she lived.
These damages are the intangible, emotional ones, including mental anguish, pain and suffering as a result of the death; loss of care, protection, advice, nurturing and guidance from the deceased; loss of love, companionship, consortium from a deceased spouse.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant for bad conduct and to discourage others for engaging in similar conduct. These may feature in cases of impaired driving, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, and where there is a homicide that has failed to be designated as a criminal act.
Attorney Fees and Interest
In certain states, survivors can recover interest on the damages from time owed to time collected (since court cases move slowly). In some cases survivors can also be reimbursed for the attorney fees they paid to bring the case to court.
In many states, there are “caps” to the amount that can be won in a wrongful death case, particularly in medical malpractice claims. There are also differing statutes of limitations depending on where the lawsuit is filed, though the statute do not begin until “the date of discovery.”