How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

What to Expect in a Wrongful Death Case

When you are coping with the unexpected loss of a family member, among the various other steps you need to take, it is important that you consult with a lawyer about your family’s legal rights. If someone else is to blame for your relative’s death, you and your loved ones could have a claim for financial compensation.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can discuss your case and build a claim on behalf of your family. Please call (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation with The Law Offices of Mickey Fine in Bakersfield or Manhattan Beach.

7 Important Facts about Wrongful Death Claims in California

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is very different from filing a personal injury claim after a non-fatal accident. If you are thinking about pursuing a wrongful death claim, here is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Your Attorney Will Need to Conduct an Investigation

First, your attorney will need to investigate your case as soon as possible. This investigation is crucial, as it serves several important purposes with regard to your family’s wrongful death lawsuit.

The purposes of the investigation are:

  • To determine the specific cause of your loved one’s death
  • To determine the party or parties that are legally responsible for your loved one’s death
  • To gather the evidence needed in order to prove liability in your family’s wrongful death claim

The evidence your attorney collects will serve as the foundation for your wrongful death claim.

2. Your Attorney Will Need to Determine Who Has Standing to File a Wrongful Death Claim

“Standing” is the legal term for the grounds a party has to take legal action in a given situation. In California, the family members who have standing to bring a wrongful death action include:

  • The decedent’s spouse or domestic partner
  • The decedent’s child or children
  • Stepchildren and other minors who were financially dependent on the deceased
  • Grandchildren (if the deceased has no surviving children)

These family members or their personal representatives have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Your attorney can make sure that all eligible family members have the opportunity to assert their legal rights.

3. Each Family Member Will Need to Work with Your Attorney to Prove Their Losses

A loved one’s untimely death can impact different family members in different ways. When preparing your family’s wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney will need to work with each individual family member (or the family member’s parent or guardian, in the case of a minor child) to calculate and prove his or her individual losses.

4. All Family Members Will Need to File Their Claims as One Action

In California, wrongful death lawsuits are subject to the One Action Rule. This rule requires all eligible family members to seek compensation via a single claim.

In order to help ensure that all eligible family members receive the maximum compensation available, your attorney will need to coordinate your family’s case and make sure that all potential claims are included in the initial filing.

5. Your Loved One’s Personal Representative May Need to File a Claim as Well

One question that many people have after losing a loved one in an accident has to do with recovering compensation for their loved one’s losses prior to death. Many people feel that this is important to securing justice, and they want to make sure that the at-fault party is held fully accountable for the loss.

In addition to allowing family members to recover compensation for their damages, California law allows the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to seek compensation for the decedent’s losses as well. This includes all “loss[es] or damage[s] that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover.”

6. Your Attorney Will Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement

After filing your family’s wrongful death lawsuit, your attorney will begin working to negotiate a settlement. There are several factors that will determine whether settlement is a viable option, from the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death to the insurance companies involved in the case.

If your attorney receives a settlement offer on your family’s behalf, you and your loved ones will need to decide collectively whether to accept the offer or keep fighting for more. If your family accepts a settlement offer, the case will be over; no member of your family will be able to seek additional compensation for your loved one’s death.

7. Your Attorney Will Take Your Family’s Claims to Court If Necessary

If your family does not accept a settlement, your attorney will need to take your wrongful death lawsuit to court. In court, your attorney will present the evidence to the judge or jury, the defense will present its side of the case, and then the judge or jury will render a decision.

If your wrongful death case goes to trial, there is a possibility that the verdict will not be in your favor. Although you have the option to appeal the court’s decision, the circumstances under which your case can be reviewed and the original verdict overturned are limited.

With all of this in mind, it is important to work with your attorney and your loved ones to determine how to resolve your case and the outcome you want to achieve.

Contact Wrongful Death Attorney Mickey Fine Today

Under any circumstances, losing a loved one is a devastating event. If your relative died as a result of someone else’s negligence, The Law Offices of Mickey Fine can pursue compensation on your family’s behalf.

Please call (661) 333-3333 today for a free consultation. Our wrongful death attorney serves clients in Bakersfield, Manhattan Beach, and other areas of California who have lost loved ones due to vehicle collisions, falls, and other fatal accidents.