Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer

Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer

Tragically, numerous innocent lives are lost every day in California due to wrongful death accidents. The families of those affected are left to endure the grief and pain of losing a loved one while also having to navigate the unexpected and complex California legal system. If the victim was a primary income earner for their family, the family will also suffer from this loss of income.

What Is a wrongful death claim?

Filing a claim against a government entity is very different from filing a civil suit against another private individual. You have limited time in which to submit a claim for damages and file your case if the claim is rejected by the government entity. Your recoverable damages are also limited. At The Bertch Firm, we are confident in our ability to provide responsive and detail-oriented legal counsel for all types of government and public property accident claims, including:

  • Vehicle accidents – One of the most common forms of wrongful death occurs when a victim is killed while operating a motor vehicle. Most commonly, they are struck by another vehicle, truck, bus or other common carrier. This is especially true if the accident happened due to distracted driving or if a vehicle was not properly maintained before the accident occurred.
  • Pedestrian and bicycle accidents – Another common situation giving rise to wrongful death occurs when a pedestrian or bicyclist is struck and killed by an inattentive or distracted driver. Often times, the responsible driver is negligent and should have avoided the collision.
  • Dangerous conditions of private or public property – If a victim is killed due to improper maintenance of a facility, its equipment, or any part of the premises, it can also be considered wrongful death. This can apply to privately owned commercial and residential buildings, public places such as parks, train stations, and walkways, , and private dwellings.
  • Recreational activities – Many innocent lives have been lost while participating in recreational activities such as skydiving, hang-gliding, bungee jumping, boating, water skiing, surfing, dirt biking, four-wheeling, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, skiing and other recreational activities.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim?

Under Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60, a decedent’s (the person who died) surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, issue of deceased children. Additionally, under limited circumstances, parents, stepchildren, legal guardians, and other minors may also bring a claim for wrongful death.

Code of Civil Procedure §377.60 states that:

“A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful  act or neglect of another may be asserted by any of the following persons or by the decedent’s personal representative on their behalf:

  1. The decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. If the parents of the decedent would be entitled to bring an action under this subdivision, and the parents are deceased, then the legal guardians of the decedent, if any, may bring an action under this subdivision as if they were the decedent’s parents.
  2. (1) Whether or not qualified under subdivision (a), if they were dependent on the decedent the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, parents, or the legal guardians of the decedent if the parents are deceased.
    (2) As used in this subdivision, “putative spouse” means the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid.
  3. A minor, whether or not qualified under subdivision (a) or (b), if, at the time of the decedent’s death, the minor resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support.”

Can I bring a claim for wrongful death if I am the fiancé, ex-spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend of the person who passed away?

Unfortunately, under California law only those persons who are expressly identified in Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 have the right, or “standing”, to bring a claim for wrongful death. As a result, fiancés, ex-spouses, girlfriends and boyfriends do not have the right to bring a claim for wrongful death. (“A cause of action for wrongful death is purely statutory in nature, and therefore ‘exists only so far and in favor of such person as the legislative power may declare.’ ” (Barrett v. Superior Court (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1176, 1184 [272 Cal.Rptr. 304], internal citations omitted.))

What type of damages can I recover in a wrongful death case?

Under California law, damages for wrongful death are generally limited to loss of financial support, loss of gifts or benefits, funeral and burial expenses, reasonable value of household services of the decedent, loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, training, guidance and loss of spousal sexual relations. (Code of Civil Procedure §377.61) Other types of damages are not recoverable, including punitive damages, emotional distress, grief and sorrow. (“The California statutes and decisions… have been interpreted to bar the recovery of punitive damages in a wrongful death action.” (Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. (1976) 17 Cal.3d 425, 450 [131 Cal.Rptr. 14, 551 P.2d 334],internal citation omitted.) There is an exception to this rule for death by felonyhomicide for which the defendant has been convicted. (Civ. Code, § 3294(d).); “California cases have uniformly held that damages for mental and emotionaldistress, including grief and sorrow, are not recoverable in a wrongful deathaction.” (Krouse v. Graham (1977) 19 Cal.3d 59, 72 [137 Cal.Rptr. 863, 562P.2d 1022], internal citations omitted.)

How much is my wrongful death case worth?

Every case is unique and must be evaluated in light of the specific circumstances giving rise to your injury. The value of your case depends on many factors including the liability of the defendant, any comparative fault of your own in causing your injuries, and the nature and extent of all of the harm suffered by you as a result of the incident, including damages for bodily injury, loss of earnings and earning capacity, property damage, general damages (e.g. pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, physical impairment, anxiety, inconvenience, grief, humiliation, and disfigurement) and punitive damages.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit for wrongful death?

In California, the statute of limitations for all personal injury claims, including wrongful death accidents, is two years from the date the incident occurred. This is known as the statute of limitations. (See Code of Civil Procedure §§335-349.4) Code of Civil Procedure §§335-335.1 states that “the periods prescribed for the commencement of actions other than for the recovery of real property, are…[w]ithin two years: an action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.”

However, there may be exceptions to this rule which shorten or extend the time for you to file a lawsuit. In most cases, a lawsuit cannot be brought if more than two years has passed since the date of the incident. In limited situations, the time to file a lawsuit may be longer than two years. For example, if the claimant is a minor, they must file a lawsuit within two years of their eighteenth birthday. In other situations, the time to file a lawsuit may be shorter than two years. For example, if your injury occurs as a result of wrongdoing or negligence of a public or government entity, you must submit a claim to the appropriate government entity within six months, even if the claimant is a minor. We strongly encourage you to speak to an attorney at your earliest opportunity to ensure your rights to bring a lawsuit to recover damages for the harm you have suffered are protected.

At The Bertch Firm, each case is overseen and prosecuted by a licensed attorney, not a paralegal or case manager. The Bertch Firm has experience with many different types of accidents, including wrongful death accidents. An experienced attorney can help you gather and preserve crucial evidence for your wrongful death claim. Contact The Bertch Firm today and experience The Bertch Firm difference when you hire us to represent you for your injury claim.

The Bertch Firm has represented many people who have been injured as a result of wrongful death accidents. For further information about your case as a result of a wrongful death accident, contact an attorney at The Bertch Firm today for a free consultation.