Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyers
While no one can erase the pain you experience from losing a relative, there are legal rights you can leverage to obtain justice and compensation. By filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Sacramento County, you may obtain financial relief for your family during these tough times. It also brings justice by holding the wrongdoer accountable for their negligence and thereby preventing future accidents.
It is physically and emotionally devastating to lose a loved one to a sudden accident. If wrongful conduct or negligence caused the death of your family member, it may be even harder to move forward.
If you lost a family member because of someone else’s negligence or wrongful conduct, you don’t have to suffer unnecessary financial losses. We can help you seek justice for your relatives and family. Contact the wrongful death lawyers at Cutter Law today to obtain free legal advice, evaluate your options, and receive restoration and hope for the future.
How does California define wrongful death?
California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 defines wrongful death as “a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another.”
In other words, it is defined as a fatality resulting from someone else’s neglect or wrongful act, such as recklessness, gross negligence, or intentional illegal acts like murder.
Wrongful death encompasses different criminal actions by the defendant, including:
- Breaking traffic laws
- Driving drunk or distracted
- Ignoring property safety
- Not providing safety gear to workers
- Failing to train workers properly
- Producing defective or life-threatening products
- Committing violent crimes
- Breaching medical-care standards
The quoted statute gives individuals the right to file wrongful death claims in the state of California; but unlike personal injury claims, the plaintiff can only get relief for specific types of damages.
Note, you can file a wrongful death claim alongside other criminal actions against the defendant. For instance, you can seek monetary damages via a wrongful death lawsuit even when the wrongdoer faces murder charges.
What causes a wrongful death lawsuit in Sacramento?
Wrongful death lawsuits stem from alleged negligence or malicious acts by a party that contributed to someone else’s death. They are under the category of personal injury cases.
The most prevalent cause of wrongful death in Sacramento, California, is motor vehicle accidents. Here are some statistics to highlights the alarming rate of auto accidents:
- In 2018 motor vehicle accidents, the California Office of Traffic Safety recorded a rate of 9 deaths per 100,000 people.
- In the same year, 978 pedestrians lost their lives in traffic wrecks, 165 cyclists died in bicyclist fatalities, and 523 motorcyclists suffered fatal injuries.
- In 2019, there were 3,316 fatal accidents in California, resulting in 3,606 deaths (2,463 in urban areas).
Other common causes of wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Violent crimes
- Medical malpractice
- Elder abuse or neglect
- Child abuse or neglect
- Assault and battery
- Slip and fall accidents
- Use of defective commercial products
Even bartenders serving patrons too much alcohol and failing to inquire about designated-driver options can be found liable in a personal injury lawsuit; this is also the case for a property owner who fails to properly maintain and repair his property, resulting in the death of a resident.
If you are unsure whether your case warrants a lawsuit, then contact an experienced attorney in wrongful death claims.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Sacramento?
California Code of Civil Procedure entitles the following people to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The personal representatives of the departed person’s estate
- Certain family members of the deceased
Here is a list of people who may be eligible for filing a wrongful death claim under California law:
- Domestic partner
- Surviving spouse
- The deceased person’s children
- Grandchildren of the departed person (if any child is deceased)
- Minor children who lived and depended on the deceased for support
The following people can also file a claim if they can prove their financial dependency on the victim:
- A putative spouse of the departed
- Children of the putative spouse
- The deceased’s stepchildren
- The deceased’s legal guardians (if the parents are dead)
If the victim has no surviving dependents, any person eligible to inherit from their estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Can there be multiple claimants in a wrongful death case in Sacramento?
No. California law allows for only one wrongful death claim by the heirs. As such, each person entitled to compensation must form a joint lawsuit.
Can the estate of the deceased person file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Yes. California law allows a personal representative of the dead person’s estate to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased or heirs.
Wrongful death and survival laws authorize different types of damages to be recovered by the estate.
In a nutshell, survival laws allow the estate to be compensated for what the deceased would have been awarded had they survived. Wrongful death laws empower the estate to be relieved of losses and suffering experienced by the deceased’s untimely death.
For the estate to file the lawsuit, there must be a representative—usually, the deceased’s closest surviving family member.
Generally, the family members will agree on who the representative should be. But if they cannot come to an agreement, and the deceased left no will, the family will have to resolve the matter in a civil court.
In this case, the representative will be appointed by the probate court (the state court handling wills and estate).
What types of damages can I receive in a wrongful death claim?
Damages in a wrongful death claim are measured in terms of the harm caused to the bereaved family due to the death of their loved one.
Potential recoverable damages under a wrongful death claim in California include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of inheritance due to the death
- Loss of income from the victim
- The value of services the victim would have provided in their life
- Loss of love, care, affection, moral support, companionship, and assistance
- Loss of guidance and training the deceased would have provided
These damages can be classified as economic or non-economic.
Economic damages are wrongful-death-related losses that impact the beneficiaries financially.
This includes medical bills, burial expenses, funeral expenses, the value of services the deceased would have provided, loss of gifts, and more. It also includes legal fees, lost earnings, and property damages.
The value of economic damages is based on receipts, bills, salary reports, and other financial statements.
Non-economic damages are non-financial losses that significantly affect the bereaved family.
California law considers the following as non-economic damages:
- Loss of love, care, protection, affection, assistance, companionship, and moral support
- Loss of guidance and training
In the eyes of the law, the plaintiff’s sorrow, grief, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and poverty do not count as non-economic damages.
Understanding that it’s hard to quantify non-economic damages, California law does not limit the number of losses eligible in a lawsuit. Instead, the jury is responsible for deciding reasonable compensation.
In some cases, the plaintiff may receive punitive damages if the defendant is convicted of felony homicide.
In survivor action, the law allows punitive damages if the estate representative can prove the deceased underwent extensive economic loss before their untimely death.
While no amount of money can erase the pain and emotional distress the at-fault party has caused, a skilled wrongful death attorney can help hold the wrongdoer accountable for neglecting their duty of care.
Who can be held liable for my family member's death?
The unique circumstances of each case determine whether or not the at-fault party is liable for a wrongful death claim.
As mentioned earlier, wrongful death lawsuits stem from a party’s misconduct. That misconduct may include negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and intentional or malicious acts.
To use negligence as an example, the accused party may be liable for a lawsuit if the plaintiff can prove that:
- The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care
- The wrongdoer breached their duty to act in a safe manner
- The victim died due to that breach
- And the plaintiff suffered substantial losses as a result
In some cases, the defendant may be held liable even if they were not negligent. Such “strict liability” cases include dog attacks or death resulting from a company’s defective products.
The defendant may be liable for a wrongful death lawsuit even after being acquitted in a related murder or criminal case.
How can I prove that another party was negligent in a wrongful death lawsuit?
California courts only agree to entertain wrongful death claims if the plaintiff can prove the main elements of the claim—that is, your family member died from someone else’s negligence or willful intent to harm them, and that you (the bereaved family) suffered financial and non-financial losses as a result.
To prove negligence, gather relevant evidence to support your claim. This includes evidence such as expert statements, witness statements, police reports, medical reports, and accident reconstruction.
The knowledge and experience of a skilled Sacramento wrongful death attorney will help you identify the cause of the victim’s death and gather all the relevant evidence to support your claims.
What if my family member died while on the job in Sacramento?
If your loved one died on the job, you have two options for seeking compensation:
- You can file a wrongful death lawsuit
- You can file a claim under California’s worker’s compensation laws
In the latter case, you have up to 12 months to file the claim—and only if you’re a total or partial dependent of the victim. Total dependents include beneficiaries who fully relied on the victim (children under 18 years). Any other member of the victim’s family is a partial dependent.
Filing for death benefits under the worker’s compensation laws does not require proving negligence. However, this method strips your right to receive compensation for non-economic damages.
California worker’s compensation laws cap death benefits at specific amounts based on whether you’re a partial or total dependent. So based on your circumstances, you may benefit more from filing a wrongful death lawsuit than death benefits under the worker’s compensation law.
If you are not sure which option is best for your circumstances, seek out guidance from an experienced wrongful death attorney in California.
How will I receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit?
If the defendant has a liability policy under an insurance company, then the insurance company will compensate the plaintiff up to the policy limit.
If the damages exceed the policy limit, the defendant may be personally liable to pay the remaining damages. In some instances, the court may order that a portion of the defendant’s wages be garnished to cover the remaining damages.
When do I have to file a claim for my wrongful death lawsuit in Sacramento?
California statute of limitations provides the plaintiff with up to two years from the time of death to file a wrongful death claim.
However, there are some exceptions to the two-year limitation.
One exception pertains to the discovery rule, which provides that the limitation in a wrongful death legal pursuit does not start until the deceased’s surviving relatives discover or learn of their loved one’s passing. In practice, the discovery rule can increase the time the plaintiff has to file a case.
Other exceptions revolve around medical malpractice, filing claims against government entities, and minors as plaintiffs.
Statute of limitation in medical malpractice cases
In cases of wrongful death stemming from medical malpractices, the plaintiff has up to three years from when the victim was injured to file a case.
Statute of limitation when filing claims against government entities
If filing a lawsuit against a government or public entity, you have up to six months from the date of death to do so.
Such cases include:
- Car accidents in a government-owned vehicle
- Accidents at public places
Statute of limitation if the plaintiff is a minor
If the plaintiff is under 18 years old at the time of the relative’s death, they have up to 2 years from when they turn 18 to file a claim.
Overall, statutes of limitations are complex. Some only permit six months and others permit up to three years. Thus, it’s crucial to contact a skilled wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights and the time limits for filing claims.
Why should I hire an experienced Sacramento wrongful death lawyer?
You’re better off hiring an experienced Sacramento wrongful death lawyer for several reasons.
Leverage years of experience
Attorneys with decades of on-job experience can handle the legal suit in a streamlined manner. They can draw from their previous experiences to better explain your right to compensation, they can use legal strategies to protect your rights and work the statutes pertaining to your case, and they can gather evidence and use it to support your claim.
Streamline an otherwise complex and potentially convoluted legal process
Proving a wrongful death claim requires massive research and preparation. For instance, you must submit records to help better calculate the amount you’re entitled to.
A lawyer has a deep understanding of California laws pertaining to wrongful death lawsuits, including economic and non-economic damages, which makes it easier to navigate tough cases.
Focus on healing while the lawyer focus on your lawsuit
Losing a family member is physically and emotionally draining. The last thing you need is to deal with a complex legal process while you grieve. Hiring an attorney resolves that dilemma and gives you more time to grieve, heal, and move forward.
Understand the value of the lawsuit
Attorneys are better poised to evaluate all the damages you may be entitled to and determine the value of your case correctly. They then leverage their experience to negotiate and ensure fair compensation.
Advice on the best course of action
A wrongful death lawyer is prepared to guide you in the direction that will benefit you most.
Contact Cutter Law
The attorneys at Cutter Law have decades of experience handling settlements for clients with personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits. We understand the relevant California laws involving wrongful death lawsuits and leverage them to obtain fair compensation for our clients.
If your relative died from someone else’s wrongful act or negligence, contact our knowledgeable legal team today for a free initial evaluation. The free consultation will determine the strength and value of your claim.
You can also visit our office in Sacramento.