Long Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer
Families who’ve had a loved one pass away because of someone else’s negligence face one of the most difficult and emotional situations possible. In many cases, loved ones are left facing financial struggles in addition to the emotional struggle of losing a family member. So often, these deaths are sudden, and families are financially unprepared to lose their income. A Long Beach wrongful death lawyer can be particularly helpful in addressing this issue.
A wrongful death claim is a legal process that holds those liable for a wrongful death accountable for the costs the family now faces. In most cases, these costs are paid by an insurance company with which the liable party has a policy. However, it can be difficult to get the insurance companies to pay the compensation that they should, as anything paid out will negatively impact profits.
The legitimate possibility of a claim against the insurance company or other defendant is a tool that a Long Beach wrongful death lawyer can use to encourage more reasonable negotiations. If an agreement can’t be reached, then taking that claim to court may be the right option. At McLachlan Law, APC, we help our clients get the compensation they’re owed, whether that means reaching a fair settlement or taking the claim to civil court.
What Does a Long Beach Wrongful Death Attorney Do?
When you decide to work with a wrongful death lawyer in Long Beach, CA, you will have someone representing you to seek the compensation you’re owed. They will represent you in the settlement process and in court if a settlement can’t be reached. If you’ve found the right lawyer, they will do so with the care and compassion that you need in such a sensitive time.
The process of getting you the compensation you’re properly owed will often begin with an investigation around the circumstances of the wrongful death. The objective is to understand the correct party or parties to hold liable in the situation and to gather evidence that can later be used to make the case against them.
A wrongful death claim can be a difficult process for a family, especially if it’s a situation where they witnessed what happened. We are sensitive to how challenging this can be and try to minimize family involvement as much as possible.
Helping You Reach a Favorable Settlement
Typically, even as the investigation is going on, there will be dialogue with the defendant, or more likely an insurance company, regarding a possible settlement. There are some situations where a settlement can be a preferable option if the right agreement can be reached. In particular, many families feel like the wound of their loved one’s death can’t begin to heal until the situation finds a resolution. A settlement could be a better option for these people, as it could avoid a long, drawn-out court case.
There are some advantages to allowing a lawyer to negotiate a settlement on your behalf. One is that wrongful death lawyers understand what a reasonable and fair offer looks like. The insurance companies often recognize that and come with a more serious offer than they might for someone negotiating on their own.
Another advantage is that the presence of a lawyer makes clear that taking the claim to court is an option for the plaintiff. This is something that many insurance companies want to avoid, and they might be more motivated to resolve the case.
However, there are times when a settlement can’t be agreed upon. In these situations, it becomes necessary to take the claim to court and allow the legal process to decide the right outcome. If that should happen, it’s a wrongful death lawyer’s job to represent you through that process.
We will make the case for the defendant’s liability by using the evidence we have gathered in the investigation process. It’s also our job to justify the compensation that you’re seeking, and we will make the case for that as well. To do so, we’ll need to prove the defendant’s negligence and connect it to the death and your costs.
When Does a Wrongful Death Claim Need to Be Filed?
How long you have to file a civil claim is determined by the statute of limitations, which, in a standard wrongful death claim, is two years. However, there can be some exceptions to these rules, including when the real cause of death is discovered and who the defendant is, particularly if it is the government. To determine exactly what the statute of limitations is in your case, it can be helpful to speak with a Long Beach wrongful death attorney.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California and Receive Compensation?
It is most often an immediate family member who is able to file a wrongful death claim. However, there are some situations where another party may be eligible to file a claim if they have a financial dependence on the deceased or some other financial connection to them. A California wrongful death lawyer can help you understand if you may have a claim. Some potential parties that could be eligible to file a claim include:
- Domestic Partner
- Heir to the Estate
- Another Financial Dependant
How Is Wrongful Death Proven in California?
In many ways, a wrongful death claim is a variation of a personal injury claim. It follows the same general process in which the defendant needs to be proven liable for the costs related to the injury, or in this case, death. That process begins with proving negligence on the part of the defendant.
When proving negligence, a plaintiff’s lawyer needs to first prove that there was a duty of care in the situation in which the death occurred. When someone has a duty of care, it means that they need to give consideration to how their actions might impact others and to take reasonable precautions to ensure that they don’t create increased danger and risk for others.
There isn’t an expectation that all risks will be eliminated, and certain precautions are unreasonable. A standard duty of care does not eliminate all risks but instead dictates that individuals should take reasonable precautions.
Demonstrating a Breach of Duty
As long as someone met the duty of care that they had in a given situation, they can’t be held liable for a death, so the next thing that must be shown is a breach of duty. This means demonstrating that the defendant failed to meet the duty of care that was expected and required of them in a given situation.
Often, this will mean first being able to demonstrate exactly what actions were taken in a given situation. Then, it will need to be shown how those actions fell short of what should have been done. Depending on how unique or unfamiliar the situation was, it could be necessary to bring in an expert witness who is knowledgeable regarding the circumstances.
For instance, a defendant driving under the influence can constitute a breach of duty. Because driving drunk reduces reaction time and slows decision-making, it endangers others on the road. If this breach can be shown to be the cause of your loved one’s death, they can be held liable.
The final thing that will need to be shown is that the breach was the direct cause of death. This is often one of the most challenging parts of the claim for the family, as it can involve reliving the situation and hearing the events of the death challenged by the defendant’s lawyers. It’s important to be prepared for the difficulty of these aspects of the case.
Demonstrating liability will usually involve a two-part process in which it is first shown that the defendant’s breach created some kind of accident or other incident. The next step is proving that the death was caused by that incident. It’s important that the connection be proven, as liability cannot be established otherwise.
What Compensation Is Available in California Wrongful Death Cases?
For compensation to be collected, the lines of causation must be further proven and connected. The costs that will be covered by the claim need to be shown to be a direct result of the death. These costs are then compensated through different forms of damages, which will usually be compensated in two forms and occasionally a third.
The simplest form of damages is economic damages. These damages will cover the costs related to the death that have a clear financial component. Any medical bills that were incurred because of the breach prior to the death will be included. Additionally, if the death was a result of a car accident or something else that included property damage, the cost of repair or replacement of that property is covered. Costs directly related to the funeral and burial are also included.
In many cases, the deceased may have contributed financially to the family. While concerns about how those finances will be covered can feel trivial compared to the loss of a loved one, they can prevent a family from moving forward after a loved one’s death. However, this is something that will also be addressed under economic damages, as the expected future compensation will be calculated and compensated for as well.
Especially in the case of a wrongful death, the costs extend well beyond the clear financial elements. There are many different intangible costs that the family is left to face. Non-economic damages are a means of addressing these costs. The psychological and emotional effects of losing a loved one can be extremely painful, so things like loss of consortium, mental anguish, and similar costs are given values and compensated through non-economic damages.
Obviously, the money paid by non-economic damages could never fully address the pain caused by a loved one’s death, nor is it meant to. Hopefully, these funds will address sources of stress in your life and allow you to focus on healing from your loss.
There is a third category of damages, although they are rarely awarded. Punitive damages are reserved for situations when the court believes the actions of the defendant to have been egregious in some way. If the death was the result of maliciousness or something else that could be argued as egregious, it’s possible that they could be awarded.
What Are the Damage Caps on a Wrongful Death Accident Claim in California?
Fortunately, California does not have any damage caps on the economic and non-economic damages that you may be awarded in a wrongful death claim. Formerly, there was a cap on the non-economic damages in cases that involved medical malpractice, but that has been deemed to be unconstitutional by the state’s supreme court. However, the lack of damage caps doesn’t mean there are no factors that could impact your damage award.
For civil claims such as personal injury and wrongful death, California operates under comparative negligence rules. These rules provide the defendant the opportunity to make the claim that the deceased was, at least partially, responsible for the accident and subsequent death.
For example, perhaps the defendant caused the death by driving recklessly, but the victim also contributed somewhat by speeding. In this case, the plaintiff’s damages could be reduced, but the defendant would still bear most of the liability.
The process will follow the same steps as asserting the defendant’s liability. The burden of proof will be on the defendant’s lawyers, and they will need to prove the elements of negligence with regard to the deceased. They will present evidence to show the deceased’s fault, and the plaintiff’s lawyers will have to defend against those accusations.
If they are successful, a percentage reflecting the court’s assessment of the share of fault will be assigned to all parties. The plaintiff’s damages will be reduced according to the share of fault that the deceased is determined to be responsible for. For instance, if the defendant is deemed 25% at fault on a $1 million claim, then the final payout will be $750,000.
Given the impact of comparative negligence, one of the most important things that your lawyer will do is prepare for claims of negligence and fault on the part of the deceased. Part of their investigation will involve attempting to foresee what arguments might be made and gathering evidence to defend against those claims.
Is It Better to Settle a Claim or Go to Court?
There is no way to know whether or not a settlement will make sense in your particular situation. The right choice will depend on the particulars of what you’re offered. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t general factors to consider when weighing a settlement compared to going to court.
In settling a claim, you are likely going to be accepting less money than you would have received if you had taken the claim to court and won. However, it’s important to remember that going to court carries the risk that things might not be ruled in your favor. In particular, the risk of comparative negligence means that there’s always the possibility the damage award could be reduced under those rules.
Another important factor is the element of time. A settlement can be reached as quickly as an agreeable amount can be found. The funds will be transferred to you according to the terms of the settlement, which is typically within 30 days. A claim that goes to court, on the other hand, could begin a process that could lead to months or even years before the plaintiff finally receives their funds. For those looking to receive their funds sooner, a settlement can achieve that.
Another potential time-related benefit can be particularly important in wrongful death claims. In many cases, families and loved ones can have difficulty feeling a sense of closure while the claim is unresolved. If a claim goes to trial, that feeling can go on for quite some time. For those who need that sense of closure, the possibility of slightly less money can be worth avoiding a drawn-out process.
A Long Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Families Them Seek the Compensation They’re Owed
Families dealing with a wrongful death deserve compensation for what happened and what they’ve lost. However, they also deserve compassion, space, and the opportunity to grieve. The balance between these two things can be challenging for a family to manage. The situation can be made all the more stressful by insurance companies that resist providing the compensation that’s owed. Therefore, working with the right Long Beach wrongful death attorney is vital.
At McLachlan Law, APC, we understand the scope of challenges that these grieving families face. We recognize both the need for space to process things and the pressures and attention that a wrongful death claim can involve. It’s our job to help families in these circumstances by pursuing the compensation they are owed while also providing the care and sensitivity they need. Our aim is to get you the compensation you’re seeking with minimal disruption and burden to you. If your loved one has been the victim of a wrongful death, contact us today.