The concept of wrongful death as a legal complaint is a difficult one to understand. After all, death is always a tragedy, but it’s also a fact of life, and it isn’t always someone’s fault.
But wrongful death law applies when there is someone at fault, whether as a result of intentional actions (like assault or murder), or as is more common, in cases of simple negligence (where careless actions accidentally lead to someone’s death).
When someone is responsible for contributing to your loved one’s passing, California allows you to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit (provided you meet the eligibility requirements). If successful, you can recover financial compensation for your losses associated with the death — and all of this happens entirely separately from any criminal proceedings that might unfold.
In fact, the majority of wrongful death cases are filed in situations where criminal charges are never filed.
These lawsuits are common, and to illustrate that, we share some troubling California wrongful death statistics below.
Beyond that, we want to help you understand typical ways in which a wrongful death lawsuit arises out of the most common scenarios, like auto accidents, medical malpractice, and more. We explore below.
A Look at the Latest Wrongful Death Statistics in California
- California has a higher annual accidental death total than any other state.
- Of these, the most common cause of accidental death is motor vehicle accident.
- California sees more than 4,000 fatalities from auto accidents every year. Given that there are only 10,000 deaths statewide on average, car accidents are clearly a leading cause of death. And in most of these accidents, a driver’s negligence is at fault.
- Nearly 300 California deaths each year involve a semi-truck or other large commercial vehicle.
- Nearly 100 people are killed by contact with machinery or other equipment in California each year.
- Over 300 fatalities happen at work each year. Roughly 1/3 of them involve a motor vehicle. Slip and fall is another common cause.
- Toxic exposure and fire/explosion each account for less than 1% of California deaths annually. Most of these cases stem from negligence, and they are often work-related.
Wrongful Death in California Auto Accidents
When a California car crash leads to a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s because the facts of the accident suggest that the victim would still be alive if not for the at-fault driver’s negligent behavior.
Common examples include:
- Driving while drunk
- Driving while under the influence of illicit drugs or prescription medication
- Texting while driving (or other smartphone use)
- Drowsy driving (especially among truck drivers)
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- The driver failed to keep his or her car in a safe condition
Sometimes, the wrongful death suit is brought against someone other than the driver. For example:
- The vehicle manufacturer
- The employer of a truck driver
- The owner of a company vehicle
- Governmental parties responsible for defects in the road
- A third party responsible for creating dangerous conditions on the road
It isn’t always immediately clear which party is most at fault. At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, our Bakersfield wrongful death attorneys are prepared to work with expert accident investigation specialists, who can help us determine exactly what led to the death and who shares in the liability.
In many cases, it is possible to recover compensation from multiple parties.
Wrongful Death and Medical Malpractice
There is nothing more heartbreaking than sending someone you love to the doctor or hospital so they can get better, and then for that person to die there because of a healthcare provider’s negligence.
Common examples of medical malpractice that lead to wrongful death lawsuits in California include:
- Surgical errors
- Allowing insufficiently experienced doctors to perform procedures
- Failure to diagnose
- Failure to provide adequate treatment
- Mixing up medical charts
- Dangerous prescription errors
- Nursing home abuse
- Leaving foreign objects inside a patient
- Failure to provide proper instructions or follow-up care
- Mistakes made during pregnancy, labor, or delivery
- Any other medical error that leads to a patient’s death
- Work-Related Wrongful Death
When wrongful death happens on the job — or even merely in connection with one’s job duties — the employer can sometimes be held financially liable. Common examples include:
- Auto accidents involving company vehicles (or driving for job-related tasks)
- Slip and fall
- Falling from heights
- Falling tools, equipment, or other objects (especially common in the construction field)
- Injuries related to machinery
- Chemical spills
- Exposure to toxic or otherwise hazardous materials
- Assault by co-workers
- Fire or explosion
- Inadequate workplace security leading to death
California is home to many different industries, so your loved one’s accident may not look like the ones described here. Generally speaking, employers have a duty to maintain safe working environments and to provide adequate training to spare their workers from harm. Sometimes, an injury develops slowly over a long period of time, such as a disease. Even in those cases, you may be entitled to financial justice.
Talk to Our Bakersfield Wrongful Death Attorneys Today
Wrongful death is always heartbreaking and agonizing. At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we understand how difficult these cases are to begin thinking about, let alone to take action on.
That’s why we are here to answer your questions. We offer free consultations for the close relatives of wrongful death victims. And if we are able to take your case, you can count on us to do all the hard work so that you can focus on grieving and healing.
These cases are time-sensitive, and strict statutes of limitations apply. Please don’t wait to contact our Bakersfield wrongful death attorneys. Give us a call, text us, or use our online form right away.