The unexpected death of a loved one is a shattering experience. The ordeal is worse if you learn that your family member’s death could have been prevented.

A death cannot be reversed, but California law recognizes the need for the parties responsible for a wrongful death to compensate aggrieved family members for their losses. In Newport Beach and greater Orange County, CA, the wrongful death attorneys of Sam & Ash Injury Law are here to provide you with compassionate guidance as you seek justice and accountability through a wrongful death claim.

As your attorneys, Sam & Ash Injury Law can handle every aspect of your claim for the compensation you are due. We won’t leave you to fight for justice on your own or let the insurance company take advantage of your grief.

Our experienced wrongful death attorneys at Sam & Ash Injury Law can make things easier for you during a trying time. We are available 24 hours a day to talk and answer your questions. Contact us now for a free, no-obligation discussion of a potential wrongful death claim.

nurse in hospital after wrongful death

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The term “wrongful death” refers to the death of a person as the result of someone else’s wrongful act or failure to act.

A wrongful death may occur because of:

  • Negligence, such as driving carelessly or failing to repair or warn visitors about a hazard on your property
  • Omission, or failure to act, such as an able adult not responding as a child drowns in a shallow pool
  • Criminal attack, such as murder or an assault and battery that proves fatal
  • Death that occurs while committing another crime, such as vehicular manslaughter in a drunk driving accident or manslaughter or murder during a home burglary

California law allows certain people to assert “a cause of action (grounds for a lawsuit) for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” As part of such a lawsuit, family members of the decedent may seek “damages,” which is compensation for their losses.

Family members of the decedent in a wrongful death may seek damages for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Financial support the decedent would have contributed to the family
  • Gifts or benefits family members could have expected to receive from the decedent
  • The value of household services the decedent would have provided
  • Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, training and guidance, moral support, and consortium
  • Pain, suffering, or disfigurement the decedent suffered prior to death

Pain, suffering, and disfigurement damages are allowed under an amendment to the law that applies to lawsuits filed between January 1, 2022, and January 1, 2026, as well as to all existing actions that have been granted a trial preference. The law is written to expire, or “sunset,”’ in 2026, but also requires the Judicial Council to report judgments and court-approved settlements to the legislature for evaluation. The legislature is expected to make this provision of the law permanent upon its sunset date.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Orange County?

California law gives immediate family members and other underage dependents of the victim of a wrongful death the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes the decedent’s:

  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Children
  • Children of deceased children (orphaned grandchildren of the decedent)
  • Stepchildren if they were dependents of the decedent
  • Parents if they were dependents of the decedent
  • Other minors (e.g., nieces, nephews) who lived in the decedent’s household for the 180 days prior to the decedent’s death and who were financially dependent on the decedent

If the decedent has no surviving children, then family members who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession (death without a will) may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Intestate succession allows various family members to inherit a decedent’s property according to who survives. The line of succession starts with the decedent’s spouse or domestic partner and children, but may include parents, siblings, and others.

California allows only one wrongful death claim by the deceased’s heirs, so anyone who may be entitled to damages must be part of a joint lawsuit.

However, the deceased’s “personal representative,” usually the executor of the will, may also file a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased’s estate. This is known as a “survival action” and may accompany a wrongful death claim.

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Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Common causes of wrongful deaths in Orange County and across California include:

If you have lost a family member because of someone else’s negligence or criminal act in Southern California, contact Sam & Ash Injury Law today. We can review your case for free and discuss how our Orange County wrongful death lawyers can help you demand the justice your family deserves.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim

If a reasonable person would have acted with greater care than the defendant did in the same or a similar situation, the defendant may be found negligent and at fault for a wrongful death.

A wrongful death lawsuit must establish the defendant’s liability according to a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is not as high a burden as “beyond a reasonable doubt,” as is required in a criminal case. In short, if your lawsuit goes to court, we must be able to persuade a jury that it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for your loved one’s death.

To develop a wrongful death lawsuit (or a survival action), we fully investigate the circumstances of your loved one’s death and determine who is responsible for what happened. We can identify all applicable insurance coverage they hold and develop a full accounting of your family’s and/or the estate’s financial losses.

For our investigations, we examine accident reports, collect physical evidence of the accident, and document the decedent’s injuries through medical records. We also identify and interview witnesses to the incident and work to locate any surveillance cameras or other devices (such as cellphones, vehicles’ “black box” Event Data Recorders, etc.) that may have recorded the accident or events leading up to it.

When necessary, we call on forensic specialists, such as automotive accident reconstruction professionals, to help us determine exactly what happened.

Before going to court, we could present your case and demand compensation from the responsible insurance company. Most wrongful death cases can be settled outside of court through negotiations because the insurance company is persuaded that it is more likely than not that their policyholder is liable or that a jury will think so.

If we must take your wrongful death lawsuit to court, we will do so with a solid case.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California

Under California law, you typically have two years from the date your loved one passes away to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If you fail to bring your wrongful death lawsuit within the time allowed by California’s statute of limitations, a court may dismiss your case. That means you lose your right to seek damages for your losses through the courts.

If your case is against a government agency, you must file a claim with the agency within six months of your loved one’s death. If the government denies your claim, you can then file your lawsuit in court, but the time limit will still count from the original date of your loss.

The statute of limitations is important because compiling a wrongful death lawsuit is very time-consuming. It is best to get in touch with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as you can after the wrongful death of a loved one. In addition to allowing us the time to thoroughly investigate and document your losses, contacting us promptly helps us obtain physical evidence before it is lost or degraded and interview witnesses before their memories become distorted over time.

Contact Our Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyers

If you have lost a loved one under questionable circumstances, you should speak to an experienced wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. At Sam & Ash Injury Law in Newport Beach, California, we can offer you the compassion you need to discuss your loved one’s passing and the legal advice you need to move forward. If you have the basis for a wrongful death claim in California, we will work diligently to prove your case and recover full compensation for you and your family.

At Sam & Ash Injury Law, we are here to help. Our team has the experience, knowledge, and drive to do What’s Right for you during this difficult time. Call us or reach out online now to set up a free, no-obligation review of your case.

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