Your Rights In A California Wrongful Death Case

Personal Injury and Workers Compensation attorney in California. For about the last 25 years, I’ve been handling Wrongful Death related matters and in this video I want to go through some of what your basic rights and remedies are if you’ve lost the loved one as a result of a car accident, truck accident or potentially a work-related injury. Before we go any further, I think it’s really important to understand and recognize that in representing someone in a wrongful death case we have to really understand the person that unfortunately passed away and their relationship with you. We want to look at how they impacted your whole life and in do so it’s often helpful to see pictures and videos and learn about your relationship with them. Then after that, then we get in some more of the details about the financial loss and some of the other things that you can claim in a Wrongful Death case that we’re going to talk about in this video.

When working with an estate or loved ones who have unfortunately lost a friend or a family member, we look at three basic remedies under the law. One of them is what’s called a survivor action, another one is called a wrongful death, and the third is potentially workers compensation rights. In a survivor action the estate has a claim against the tortfeasor or the person that caused the death for loss of wages that the decedent had from the time of the accident until passing away.

It’s a limited period of time, it’s until they actually pass away, not the future. Likewise, they have a claim for medical bills from the time of the accident until they passed away. Those are the typical nature of remedies that we see in a survivor action that’s brought by the estate. The second remedy that might be available when someone’s lost a loved one has to do with a Wrongful Death claim. The first question we deal with in a wrongful death claim is “Who has the right to bring that claim?” because the claims not brought obviously by the decedent, it’s brought by other people.

The law generally says that if you would have been an heir had they passed away, then you have the right to bring that claim. Now, the good news is it’s not quite that limited. The law is broader than direct heirs it can actually include what’s called a putative spouse, someone who acted and believed like they were a spouse but weren’t legally married, as long as they were living together. It could even include stepchildren and in some cases other minor children in the household who were dependants on the decedent. So while technically we look at heirs, it could be a little bit broader to show who’s entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. The next issue that we deal with in a Wrongful Death action is making sure we identify all the compensable damages. What are the types of damages that the courts will allow us to recover and what are the limitations within that? We typically divide those compensable damages into two categories: Financial damages, sometimes called pecuniary loss, and non financial loss damages such as non-pecuniary losses.

Within the financial loss or pecuniary loss, there are three basic large categories we look at. Funeral expenses, loss of financial support, and loss of financial contribution. Funeral expenses relatively speak for themselves. It’s the cost of putting on the funeral and the services and the related events around that. Those are directly compensable and not usually difficult to establish. Another financial loss that we regularly see in wrongful death actions has to do with what’s called financial contributions.

They’re a little different than financial support in that financial contributions are typically gift-giving that you would have expected in the future such as Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, things of the like and potentially even a natural inheritance had they been able to finish out their career. One of the most common damages that we see in a wrongful death action has to do with loss of financial support. When the decedent was someone who regularly contributed to the household expenses, whether it’s rent or the mortgage or food or basic bills then that loss of financial support is an element of damages that we can claim. One of the more delicate subject matters to prove in a wrongful death action are the non-financial losses and those include obviously things that you would expect: loss of love and companionship but they include also loss of household services, loss of training and loss of advice. We’ve spent a little bit of time talking about Survivorship Actions and then Wrongful Death and now I want to spend a moment talking about your rights in the Workers Compensation system.

In the Workers Compensation system we do not need to establish that there was a wrongful death. All we need to establish that someone passed away either on the job or as a result of a job-related injury. The good news about the Workers Compensation system is we don’t have to prove fault. All we have to do is prove that someone passed away as a result of a job incident or the result of the job injury. so it’s did it arise out of the course of employment, that’s it.

We also don’t have to prove necessarily a family relationship as defined by law but rather dependency. If you’re a dependent on the person that passed away, then you have those rights and claims within the Workers Compensation system, there could potentially be one other remedy and that has to do with penalties for a Serious and Willful violation. If the death or the injury giving rise to the death was caused by serious and willful misconduct by the employer or misconduct that co employee, then you may have a right to penalties equal to fifty percent of all benefits paid under the Workers Compensation system. We’ve just covered some of the basic rights that you may have in a survivor action or wrongful death or workers compensation system. But I want to reiterate what I said before that, every case is different and especially in a wrongful death case and so it’s really important that you sit down and meet with an attorney who’s willing to spend the time with you to really learn about your relationship to make sure that you receive all the benefits that you’re entitled to.

If you’re in California and you’ve unfortunately lost a loved one to a work related or non-work-related injury such as a car accident or a truck accident. I hope you would think about reaching out to my firm or myself. With my greatest condolences for your loss, we appreciate you watching and wish you all the best in your search for justice. .

Teena