Wrongful Death Attorneys
In a matter of seconds human life may be ripped away as a result of a catastrophic accident. The tragic experience for a family of losing a loved one through no fault of their own is hard to comprehend. The death seems unfair and unjust leaving a void in the hearts of many. Common causes of wrongful death include vehicle accidents, product defects, workplace injuries, and even dangerous conditions on property.
In fact, motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of personal injury deaths for people ages 5 years to 34 years. Equally true the 32,719 nationwide deaths in 2013 resulted from 30,057 motor vehicle crashes. Moreover, accidents resulting in serious injuries and fatalities that involve collisions between vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists are reported to be particularly common in Los Angeles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s statistics show that Los Angeles has triple the pedestrian and cyclist accident rate compared to the national average (33% compared to 11.4%)
Under a wrongful death cause of action, heirs are entitled to recover damages on their own behalf for the loss they have sustained by reason of the victim’s death. Corder v. Corder (2007) 41 Cal.4th 644, 651. The elements of a wrongful death action are negligence by a third party that causes damages suffered by the heirs of the decedent. Plaintiff most prove the third party owed a duty to the decedent and breach the duty owed to them. Lattimore v. Dickey (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 959, 968. Heirs that have standing to sue for wrongful death include: the spouse and surviving dependent children; a defacto partner or domestic partner and any dependent children; surviving parents or siblings of the decedent, and their children; and any other person who may have been dependent on the decedent. A cause of action for wrongful death is a statutory claim that compensates specified heirs of the decedent for losses they suffered as a result of a decedent’s death. A wrongful death action compensates an heir for his or her own independent pecuniary losses. Therefore, damages are limited to the heirs’ loss, including: (1) the loss of the decedent’s financial support, services, training and advice, and (2) the pecuniary value of the decedent’s society and companionship. They may not, however, recover for such things as the grief or sorrow attendant upon the death of a loved one.
Distinct from a wrongful death cause of action is an alternative theory of recovery for the death of a loved one under a survival action. A wrongful death claim is separate and distinct from the victim’s action which survives to the estate. California Code of Civil Procedure sections 377.10, et seq. establish rules relating to these kind of actions, which are commonly called survivor (or “survivorship”) actions. In the typical survivor action, the damages recoverable by a personal representative or successor in interest on a decedent’s cause of action are limited by statute to the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including, but incurred medical expenses, wage loss, and any penalties or punitive damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover had the decedent lived. This does not include damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.
All wrongful death cases are brought under the terms of state law. In California, there is only one joint wrongful death claim allowed against a defendant. That means that all possible heirs to the decedent must bring the claim jointly. This is known as the “One Action Rule”. In fact, if there is another person that may be entitled to be represented by the action, that person must be declared at the time of the claim being submitted as a nominal defendant.
If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s wrongful conduct, you must learn more about your legal rights to receive compensation. Give one of our experienced personal injury lawyers at Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo, LLP a call today to learn more about recovering damages and to explore your options. We can help you achieve the maximum compensation for the harm you or a loved one has suffered.