Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney
When one person causes the death of another person, whether by accident or intentionally, the surviving family members of the deceased need to speak to an attorney about how to pursue a Wrongful Death Claim and bring those responsible to justice.
This claim is a remedy that attempts to measure the financial loss that the family will suffer because they lost their loved one.
If someone close to you has recently been a victim of Wrongful Death, please read this page for important information and don’t hesitate to contact a California death attorney.
At the Reeves Law Group, we have been helping clients with Wrongful Death claims in Los Angeles County, and throughout Southern California for over 35 years.
[Page updated: 06-10-2021]
The first choice in Los Angeles Wrongful Death cases
For over 35 years, The Reeves Law Group has been helping surviving family members file wrongful death claims and recover compensation for tragedies such as the death of a loved one. We have recovered over $250 Million dollars in verdicts and settlements.
Derek Pakiz, lead trial attorney at the Reeves Law Group, was featured as Newsweek’s Top 10 Trial Lawyers in the Country. He is also recognized by The National Trial Lawyers Association as one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in the United States.
A Testimonial of The Reeves Law Group, Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyers
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What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal claim that exists when a person dies due to a wrongdoer’s actions including Negligence, Intentional Misconduct or Strict Liability. This wrongdoer may be a person or entity. In a wrongful death claim, surviving family members may sue for damages arising from the accident.
More about wrongful death
Tragic accidents happen in great numbers every day. Unfortunately, sometimes a bad decision or poorly manufactured product can cause someone to die. This is referred to as Strict Liability, when there is an absence of negligence or intentional acts that caused the fatality.
For deaths with an underlying case of fault due to misconduct, our legal system has developed an area of law called “Wrongful Death Law” that is designed to help families and heirs who lose a loved one due to someone else’s negligence.
Underlying negligence and/or Intentional Misconduct can be the cause of the death, and therefore the incident not necessarily be an “accident” although it’s commonly referred to as such.
A Wrongful Death claim is handled in a civil action (civil court system), rather than the criminal court system. However, a defendant can be brought before both a civil and criminal court for causing the death of the decedent.
How do you prove wrongful death?
In order to succeed with their Wrongful Death Claim, the surviving family members of the deceased must prove to a jury, with facts, how the defendant is legally responsible for causing fatal harm to the deceased.
Because the stakes are so high in wrongful death claims, it is important that a law firm that specializes in these types of cases represent the family (also known as “heirs” of the decedent).
A Wrongful Death lawyer will demonstrate whether the defendant acted carelessly (duty of care), recklessly, or intentionally, how that behavior resulted in the victim’s death, how the defendant is liable for the death, and what losses the family has suffered as a result of the death.
How Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help?
Wrongful Death lawsuits in California can be high-value cases and can be extremely complicated because they involve complex areas of law and insurance companies will fight tooth and nail.
Retaining a skilled Los Angeles wrongful death attorney is the best way for the survivors to succeed in their claim and receive the greatest amount of compensation they are owed under the law.
If you need to hire a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer, the attorney should have the following competencies:
- Exceptional preparation and experience are requirements to maximize the chances of success in a wrongful death lawsuit and other catastrophic cases such as traumatic amputation injuries. The best choice for a law firm will be one with years of experience in wrongful death law and handling similar accident cases that resulted in death.
- Sometimes there can be many people who are entitled to recovery through a wrongful death claim. A thorough analysis by an attorney will determine if a probate estate should be set up. If the attorney determines that this is the best course of action, then the victim’s estate, instead of the deceased’s individual survivors, will file the claim.
- A key part of evaluating how much compensation should be awarded is establishing what the victim’s life would have been like if the accident had never happened. Experts will measure the person’s health, life expectancy, occupation, and other factors like hobbies and activities as part of the damages award.
- How is compensation for death calculated? Sometimes the loss of a family member can leave a family without financial support. Experts can calculate the amount of money the family is owed to compensate them for the loss by analyzing key information like employment, work and wage history, salary, and future lost income.
- Part of building a successful case is making an argument for non-economic damages like loss of companionship. Maximizing this type of compensation is dependent on a lawyer’s preparation and advocacy skills. The best wrongful death lawyers have handled similar cases before and will know how to artfully present your case to a jury.
About Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death case compensates the surviving family members (plaintiffs) of the deceased for their losses caused by the death. This claim does not compensate them for the losses suffered by the person who died.
For example, in a wrongful death claim, the survivors are not allowed to recover damages for the deceased’s medical costs, property damage, or lost income. However, the victim’s estate may bring a separate “survival action” to recover these damages.
Is there punishment for Wrongful Death? Sometimes, punitive damages are awarded in a survival action because the deceased survived the accident, even if only for a short period, or because the deceased’s property was damaged in the accident while the person was still alive. Lost earnings and medical expenses can be claimed for this period prior to death.
Punitive damages can be awarded, regardless of the victim’s momentary survival or the damage to their property, when the death is an intentional killing and the person who committed the act has been convicted of felony homicide (for example a knife or gun attack, or an intentional act of striking a pedestrian with a car).
Frequently, a wrongful death claim will be combined with a survival action and brought to court at the same time.
California law is constructed with the understanding that people who lose a loved one will suffer. This suffering can take both an economic form and a non-economic form.
What Can I Do After The Death Of A Loved One?
After someone dies in an accident, it is important for the deceased’s survivors to act quickly. Many instances of “Wrongful Death” revolve around the facts of how the accident happened and identifying those responsible for the death. As time goes by, key pieces of evidence can be lost and eyewitnesses can forget important details.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will bring in investigators and other experts to immediately examine the accident and document the facts before any information is lost. There are typically no lawyer fees for the plaintiffs unless the case is won.
How much Compensation/payout Can be obtained For The Death Of A Family Member?
The following are some of the economic damages that can be awarded:
- Often when someone dies in an accident, the surviving family members lose the financial help that the deceased contributed. This amount can be awarded for the duration of the expected life span of the deceased or the person bringing the claim, whichever one is shortest.
- Loss of inheritance interests
- Any funeral home costs and other burial expenses.
- The monetary worth of any services that the deceased would have provided.
Non-economic losses are another category of compensation. Where economic compensation can be directly connected to a dollar amount, non-economic damages are much harder to quantify. A skilled wrongful death lawyer will be able to demonstrate to a jury the monetary value of these losses.
Non-economic damages include:
- The loss of care that the heir suffers because of the death. This can include the training, advice, assistance, protection, and love that the deceased would have given if still alive.
- For the victim’s spouse, the loss of sexual relations.
When a jury is calculating the value of these non-economic damages, it may not take into account the emotional pain of the heirs, their economic status, or whether the deceased was in pain or suffered before passing away. One exception to this rule is that those bringing the claim may receive damages for their emotional distress if they witnessed the accident or the death of their loved one.
Because of the legal complexity of a wrongful death case, and the emotional strain that comes with these, it is imperative that the survivors discuss their case with a skilled attorney as soon as possible.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone passes away, only certain loved ones (heirs) have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Who is allowed to bring this claim is similar to who would be allowed to inherit the property of the deceased person if the person died without writing a will.
The right to this claim lies with the closest relatives of the person who passed away, such as surviving spouses, domestic partners and offspring.
- The first person who is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim is the deceased’s wife or husband, then the deceased’s offspring, any dependent stepchildren, any minors who have been under the deceased’s roof for half a year or more, and then the deceased’s dependent parents.
- If no one fits into these categories, then the right to file a claim moves to the surviving parents of the deceased, then brothers and sisters of the deceased and their children, then grandparents, and then to the children of a spouse who passed away.
- Finally, if no one meets these requirements, the deceased’s next of kin may file the claim.
Any of the parties listed above can have the personal representative of the estate of the decedent bring the action. The proceeds from the lawsuit will be distributed to the surviving family members (Co-Plaintiffs) as indicated by the wrongful death statute.
What Is The Statute Of Limitations To File A Wrongful Death Claim In California?
Under traditional common law, wrongful death actions did not exist. It was thought that the claim of the victim died with that person. State legislatures realized that this rule failed to compensate family members and others who suffered certain economic and non-economic losses due to a person’s death and enacted laws to correct this problem.
Today, California wrongful death statutes provide help to grieving families in the state. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is 2 years from the date of death.
Negotiating Wrongful Death Settlements
Oftentimes, a wrongful death lawsuit doesn’t go to trial. This is because the different parties agree to a settlement beforehand. Being able to manage settlement negotiations requires several skills that only the best attorneys possess.
An experienced attorney will use expert knowledge of the law and preparation in these discussions with the aim of serving the client’s best interests.
- Commitment: Your legal counsel should be personally committed to your case. Your lawyer should meet soon after the death to discuss the matter and should be responsive to questions that you have about the process.
- Preparation: Your attorney should understand your needs, the facts of the case, and the benefits and downsides of a settlement.
- Tactics: The top lawyers employ different tactics depending on the circumstances of the case, the defendant, and the defendant’s counsel. Your lawyer should know the best approaches for your specific case.
Sometimes, pursuing a settlement is in the best interests of the decedent’s family members. A skilled lawyer can help by quickly ending any legal disputes, winning them compensation for the death, and allowing them to focus on healing seeking emotional support
Contact A Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney near You
Our team of highly skilled attorneys understands the nature of Wrongful Death Claims and has helped numerous clients through the difficult circumstances brought about by these tragic losses.
Contact The Reeves Law Group for a free consultation with a lawyer to discuss your case and receive guidance. We have have been helping victims of Wrongful Death in Los Angels and throughout Southern California.