Wrongful Death - What to Know
Wrongful deaths arise from the death of a loved one by the negligence of another. In other words, they are grounded in personal injury/tort laws. Liability based on negligence is determined just like any other personal injury case, but the main difference is that the cause of action belongs to the heirs of the decedent. That means it is the heirs of a loved one who has passed away who have "standing" to sue in court. Because the heirs have standing, damages also flow from the heirs relationship to the decedent.
Note: It is important to understand the interplay between employment-related injuries and non-employment-related injuries. In California, Worker's Compensation Proceedings are the exclusive remedies for employment-related injuries. The nature of this exclusivity unfortunately bars civil actions against employers by nondependent parents of an employee for the employee’s wrongful death, by an employee’s spouse for loss of the employee’s services or consortium, and for emotional distress suffered by a spouse in witnessing the employee’s injuries.” (Snyder v. Michael’s Stores, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 991, 997 [68 Cal.Rptr.2d 476, 945 P.2d781], internal citations omitted.). Therefore, wrongful death causes of action mostly only be brought in non-employment related cases. As the law is rarely ever completely black and white, however, it would be worth it to consult with an attorney about the particulars of your case.
How Damages are Calculated in Wrongful Death Actions
Damages for wrongful death actions, like many personal injury cases, come in the form of economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include items such as the following:
1. the financial support, if any, that the deceased loved one would have contributed to the family during either the life expectancy that he or she had before his or her death or the life expectancy of the plaintiff (i.e., the loved one's heir(s) bringing the lawsuit), whichever is shorter;
2. The loss of gifts or benefits that Plaintiff would have
expected to receive from deceased loved on;
3. Funeral and burial expenses; and
4. The reasonable value of household services that the loved one would have provided.
Noneconomic damages can also be sought such as:
1. The loss of the decedent's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support;
2. The possible loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations; and
3. The loss of the decedent's training and guidance.
It's also important to not that for any of the damages, California uses a pure comparative negligence standard involving tort actions. This means that the fault of all parties to an accident is examined and given a percentage. In other words, this means that if the decedent might have also been negligent in causes his or her own wrongful death, the judge or jury will determine the percentage of this "comparative negligence" and reduced the damages by the amount the decedent was found to be negligent.
For life expectancy estimations it is often vital to hire an expert witness and put on evidence related to the family traits for longevity, etc. Griswold Law Firm, through its associates, has an established network of experienced experts and a track record of success with these types of lawsuits.
If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, set up an appointment today. We will determine the strength of your case. If we believe you have a good case, we will immediately get the process going so you can receive compensation for your loss. While wrongful death lawsuits will never fill the void of a lost loved one, they can at least help ease the blow of an unexpected death from a financial perspective.
Contact us today and set up an appointment.
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