Oakland Wrongful Death Lawyers

A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit generally brought by the surviving family members of a person who died due to someone else’s wrongful acts. Unlike personal injury lawsuits, a wrongful death lawsuit in Oakland extends from California statutory law. The wrongful death statute in California sets out specific rules for who can bring a claim for wrongful death cases and what types of damages can be recovered.

If you have lost a loved one due to the actions or inaction of another person, the Oakland personal injury lawyers at Cutter Law are here to help. Our compassionate legal team is here to help you get the compensation you need to help you during this difficult time. 

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    What is a wrongful death in California?

    California’s wrongful death law statute defines a wrongful death lawsuit as “a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.” Wrongful acts can be types of accidents where the negligent party had no intent to kill someone, or they can be acts committed intentionally, such as homicide.

    Wrongful death actions may result from:

    • Negligence,
    • Gross negligence,
    • Recklessness, and
    • Acts committed intentionally, such as homicide.

    Wrongful death lawsuits have unique restrictions in California and do not follow the same processes as a typical civil action or personal injury claim. California’s wrongful death statute lists specific types of damages that may be recovered. The law also limits the persons who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit to family members of the deceased persons.

    Of note, wrongful death lawsuits can be brought, and often are brought, at the same time criminal actions are filed against the wrongdoer. An example of this is a situation where a drunk, negligent driver kills another person. The state may bring criminal manslaughter charges against the drunk driver, and the deceased person’s family may at the same time bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the drunk driver.

    Photo showing hands lighting a candle at an Oakland cemetery

    How do I know if I can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oakland?

    Specific rules under the California Code of Civil Procedure dictate who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Under California law, the following individuals are the only people who can bring a wrongful death claim:

    • the surviving spouse of the deceased person;
    • the children of the deceased person; or
    • the grandchildren of the deceased person.

    However, if the decedent does not have any living descendants (i.e., children or grandchildren), then the person who inherits the deceased’s estate under the laws of California is also an eligible party. This would be according to the laws of intestacy as if he or she died without a will.

    In addition, the California wrongful death statute allows certain persons to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if they were financially dependent on the deceased person at the time of the deceased person’s death. The following parties include:

    • the putative spouse (someone who believed in good faith (though incorrectly) that they were married to the deceased person),
    • the putative spouse’s children,
    • the deceased person’s stepchildren, and
    • the deceased person’s legal guardians, as long as the deceased person’s parents are also deceased.

    Whether you lost your loved one from a car accident, construction site accident, manufacturing facility accident, or another type of fatal accident, contact our lawyers today for a free consultation to understand your legal rights and file a lawsuit against the responsible party.

    Who can receive compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit?

    Generally, family members and other persons who were financially dependent on the deceased person, such as a person who believed incorrectly, but in good faith, that they were married to the deceased person, can receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit.

    The laws surrounding wrongful death lawsuits can be complicated. If you lost a family member or a loved one, we can help walk you through the legal process of wrongful death lawsuits and whether or not you can file a claim. We help our clients by fighting for their best interests and ensuring they understand their legal rights every step of the way.

    What kind of compensation can I receive in a wrongful death lawsuit?

    California law guides the various damages that individuals can receive in a wrongful death lawsuit. If you qualify as a person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, you can recover both economic damages and non-economic damages.

    Economic damages include actual costs related to the death of the family member and any other expenses. These can include:

    • Medical expenses, medical bills, ambulance costs, hospital bills, and any other medical costs related to the injuries that led to the individual’s death.
    • Funeral expenses. Funeral costs can be extremely expensive. You can potentially receive compensation for these costs in a wrongful death suit.
    • Any lost wages.
    • The expected loss of future income or financial support that the deceased individual was expected to provide during his or her life expectancy.
    • The loss of benefit plans or gifts that were expected from the deceased individual.

    California Civil Jury Instructions 3921 instruct a jury on how to determine an individual’s life expectancy. The instructions state that the jury can bring attention to the following factors:

    • Age
    • The individual’s health at the time of death
    • The individual’s lifestyle habits (i.e., smoking or activities they would participate in)
    • The individual’s occupation

    California law also allows for plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits to receive non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are for the emotional pain and suffering that you feel from the loss of your loved one. This is based on:

    • Loss of companionship
    • Loss of consortium
    • Loss of care or assistance
    • Loss of affection
    • Loss of protection
    • Loss of moral support
    • Loss of guidance
    • Loss of training

    While no amount of money can take away the pain of losing your loved one, financial hardship will only make the recovery period more difficult. You do not have to go through the complex legal processes alone. It is our job at Cutter Law to work tirelessly on your behalf so that you do not have to suffer from unfair financial losses.

    Photo showing flowers on a headstone in an Oakland cemetery

    How much is my wrongful death case worth?

    Each wrongful death case is different, and the value of your claim depends on various factors, including the number of years you would have had with your loved one if they had not died, the benefits and gifts you would have received from your loved one if they had not died, and the value of the household services your loved one would have provided. A wrongful death settlement can range from $500 to more than $1 million.

    An Oakland wrongful death attorney can help you determine how much your wrongful death claim is worth.

    What does a wrongful death lawsuit process look like in Oakland?

    To initiate and file a lawsuit after a wrongful death in Oakland, you must take specific steps. First, you must identify the person or persons who were responsible for the death of your loved one. Next, you must investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. This will include collecting evidence to prove your case. You or your attorney will then contact the wrongdoer or their liability insurance company, if they have one, and try to negotiate a settlement.

    If the person or their insurance company fails to offer you a fair settlement, you can then file a wrongful death lawsuit in a California state court. The document file that initiates the lawsuit is called a complaint. The parties then proceed through a process called discovery, during which time both parties can gather all evidence that will be admissible in court. The parties may then participate in a process called mediation, where they attempt to settle their claims before going to trial. If the parties can’t resolve their claims through mediation, then their case will be argued by trial lawyers before a jury, which will judge and decide if the wrongdoer is liable for the deceased person’s death.

    If you’ve lost a loved one recently due to someone else’s wrongful conduct, there is a good chance you are experiencing intense grief, confusion, and shock over your sudden loss. You may feel paralyzed to act, and you may not know where to turn. A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your legal rights while guiding you compassionately and gently every step of the way.

    $240 Million

    Trial attorney Brooks Cutter took a lead role in a nationwide case against Boston Scientific and Guidant following a recall of the manufacturer’s pacemakers and cardiac defibrillators.

    $7.6 Million

    Medical malpractice jury verdict on behalf of a young woman who suffered a spinal cord injury after doctors failed to diagnose a tumor on her spine.

    $ 2.4 Million

    Brooks Cutter and Margot Cutter won a $2.4 million dollar verdict on behalf of the children of a man who died after a staff doctor at a hospital lied and transferred a patient to another hospital that was not equipped to handle the patient.

    $1.85 Million

    Attorneys Todd Walburg and Celine Cutter represented a cyclist in Sonoma County, California who suffered a broken jaw and a mild traumatic brain injury after she rode her bike through a large pothole. 

    How can an experienced Oakland wrongful death attorney help me?

    The untimely death of a beloved family member is a tragic loss, but victims don’t have to go through this process alone. You have the legal right to seek justice and make the wrongdoer pay you money damages to compensate for your loss. Although no amount of money can take away the pain of losing your family member in a tragic accident, financial recovery can at least compensate you for the monetary loss from your loved one’s death and get your life back on track.

    An experienced wrongful death attorney knows what the wrongful death law requires when claims should be filed and what types of monetary damages are available. A personal injury attorney will offer you essential legal advice and answer all your questions about your wrongful death lawsuit. The attorney will also gather all relevant evidence to determine what your claim is worth, communicate with the defendant and third parties, hire experts, and, finally, file all necessary documents in the proper California state court.

    You do not have to go through these difficult times alone. At Cutter Law, our legal team is here to help you take legal action and receive the financial compensation you deserve after the unexpected death of your loved one.

    Who is liable in a wrongful death lawsuit?

    Any person or entity that engaged in wrongful conduct—this includes negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, or even intentional acts such as homicide—which resulted in the death of your loved one, can be held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

    Additionally, in a small number of wrongful death cases, a person or entity may be held responsible under a theory of “strict liability,” meaning the person can be held liable even if you can’t prove negligence. An example of these types of claims is when a company’s defective product led to the death of a person.

    How long do I have to file a wrongful death case after losing my family member in Oakland?

    The California wrongful death statute of limitations is usually two years from the date of death or the date the cause of the death could have reasonably been known. However, where medical malpractice is the cause of death, you must file your case within three years of the date of injury or one year after you discover, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first. Furthermore, if the case is against a governmental entity, you must file a government tort claim within 6 months.

    You should contact a wrongful death lawyer with a proven track record as soon as possible after the death of your loved one. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide legal counsel about the deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit as well as the value of your claim.

    Significant Cases in Oakland, CA

    In recent years, there have been several significant wrongful death lawsuits and awards in Oakland and Northern California.

    In October 2020, Alameda County agreed to a $5 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who committed suicide while being detained in the Santa Rita Jail. The 20-year-old man had been taken to jail after his parents called the police, worried that he was having a mental breakdown. The man’s parents wanted him to be admitted immediately to a psychiatric hospital for his safety and the safety of others, but authorities instead placed him in jail, where he hanged himself.

    In another wrongful death lawsuit in late December 2020, a man whose wife and daughter died in the Zogg Fire filed a wrongful death lawsuit in California state court against power giant PG&E. He alleged that the company failed to cut back trees near power lines and failed to switch off the power near the circuit where the fire started, causing the death of his wife and daughter.

    Photo showing a statue at an Oakland cemetery

    When should I contact an experienced Oakland wrongful death law firm?

    If your loved one died because of another person’s wrongful conduct, it is crucial to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible so your attorney can begin preserving significant evidence for your wrongful death case. It is also imperative that you file a wrongful death lawsuit within the deadline. If you miss the deadline, you will be forever barred from bringing your claims.

    Why choose Cutter Law?

    If you lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful behavior, we at Cutter Law have the legal experience to help you decide whether a wrongful death lawsuit is the right option for you. Our attorneys and staff have 40 years of experience in filing wrongful deaths lawsuits and obtaining great results for our clients. For instance, in one wrongful death lawsuit, we obtained a $2.4 million jury verdict for the children of a man who died after a hospital staff doctor lied and moved the man to a hospital that lacked the resources to properly care for the man.

    If your loved one or family member died because of someone else’s wrongdoing, it is a good idea to contact the experienced and caring legal office at Cutter Law for a free case evaluation.


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    Oakland Office
    Cutter Law P.C.
    1999 Harrison Street Suite 1400
    Oakland, CA 94612

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