At Hunter Law, we are compassionate yet highly-effective and will aggressively handle your claim and fight to achieve justice for you.
Generally in California, the lawful heirs are the decedent’s surviving spouse and children, however other family members, such as the decedent’s parents or siblings, aunts or uncles may also have claims as heirs in a wrongful death case. All of the possible claimants must be joined together in a single wrongful death case, also known as the one action rule. If one or more heirs do not agree to join the matter as a plaintiff, they will joined as a nominal defendant.
Under a wrongful death claim, the heirs can ask for compensation due to loss of support, loss of services, funeral and burial expenses, loss of comfort and companionship. As a general rule, a jury will award an undivided lump sum award to the heirs, regardless of how many persons are making a claim as an heir. The monetary award will be divided either by agreement, or if the heirs cannot agree, by the court in whatever way it deems most fair.
Should you be faced with a difficult wrongful death matter, please know that our firm is here to provide you with experienced guidance and assistance. Please contact us today at (949) 556-3104 for a complimentary consultation of your case.
Under California law, a “wrongful death” occurs any time the negligence or misconduct of a person, business, or government entity results in the death of an individual. The underlying circumstances giving rise to a wrongful death claim can be very broad and include, but are not limited to:
California law allows children, parents, siblings, spouses, and registered domestic partners to file a wrongful death claim against a party they allege to be responsible for the death of their loved one. California has a One Action Rule to prevent numerous lawsuits against a defendant for the same wrongful death. Under this rule, multiple plaintiffs or family members must join together in a single lawsuit against the defendant or be named as nominal defendants. That way, if a child or sibling was not included as a plaintiff or nominal defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, they cannot later bring a second claim against the defendant.
The specific facts and elements you will need to prove to succeed in a wrongful death claim depends heavily on the underlying event or condition that caused the victim’s death. Most wrongful death claims are based on the theory of negligence. In order to prevail in a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Specifically, they must prove that the defendant had a legal duty to act as a reasonable person under the circumstances or, if the defendant had special knowledge, they had a duty to act as a person with their special knowledge and experience would under those circumstances. For example, if a wrongful death claim is based on an allegation of medical malpractice committed by a doctor, that doctor will be held to the standard of care that a reasonable physician with their education and experience would provide under the same circumstances.
Next, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to conduct themselves with that standard of care in the situation that resulted in the victim’s death. Then, they must prove that this failure was the cause in fact of the victim’s death. Finally, the plaintiff must prove that the victim did in fact die and must also prove any other expenses or damages caused by the defendant’s negligence.
Wrongful death damages can include:
Effectively establishing and articulating these damages are necessary to prevail in a wrongful death matter.
At Hunter Law, we are compassionate yet highly-effective and will aggressively litigate your claim and achieve justice for you. Our years of experience can guide you through this difficult period and do our very best to minimize the stress of this process. Please call us today at (949) 556-3104 or fill out our online contact form so we may discuss your case.