If someone you love died as a result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another person or entity, you may have a valid claim of "wrongful death" against that person or entity, and you may be entitled to compensation. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to provide relief to family members (or the beneficiaries of the estate) who have been injured emotionally and financially by a person's death.
In general, in California wrongful death suits must be brought within two years of the date on which the death occurred. However, the success of a claim may depend on the effectiveness of the investigation and the type and quality of the evidence collected in support of that claim; therefore, if you are considering bringing a wrongful death claim, it is essential that you discuss your case with an experienced California wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
As bereaved family members struggle with the emotional trauma and the economic consequences of the loss of a loved one, they are often in no position to investigate the circumstances of the death, preserve key evidence, or negotiate effectively with insurance company representatives. An experienced California personal injury attorney would take over those tasks, as well as others that are crucial to reaching full compensation for the harm suffered.
Through a wrongful death claim, family members may seek compensation for damages such as
- direct expenses: medical bills and funeral costs;
- loss of future earnings: the amount that the deceased would have earned in salary over his or her lifetime if she or he had lived;
- loss of benefits: the amount that the decedent could have received in pension/retirement benefits had he or she lived;
- loss of companionship: an amount intended to compensate for the emotional support that the decedent would have provided to the person or people who are bringing the claim, and for the mental pain and suffering caused by the death;
- loss of other services that the deceased would have provided: those might include household services, tutoring, etc.
In particularly egregious cases, punitive damages may also be awarded, in order to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct.
The emotional and economic damage caused by a wrongful death is real--whether that death is the result of a car accident, a slip and fall, the use of a defective product, or other circumstances. However, calculating the amount of damages involved is a complex process involving multiple factors, such as the nature of the relationship between the decedent and the person or people who are bringing suit; the anticipated lifespan of the decedent; the anticipated earnings and benefits of the decedent; and any fault that may be attributed to the decedent him/herself. Wrongful death claims must almost always be supported by expert testimony from professionals such as actuaries and economists.
If you are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim, please contact the Los Altos-based attorneys at Ziff & Cohn right away. Our initial consultation is free of charge, and, if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis--which means that we get paid for our services only in cases that end with a monetary award or recovery of funds.
Our office is conveniently located on El Camino Real in Los Altos, California.