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Losing a family member is one of the hardest things we will ever experience. This difficulty is compounded when the death was due to the negligent or wrongful conduct of someone else. Our law firm understands the hardship and extraordinary mental anguish that families suffer after a wrongful death. We are deeply experienced in the legal complexities and nuances that such claims present and we use that experience to guide our clients through this most difficult time.
What is a Wrongful Death?
A claim for wrongful death arises when someone is killed due to the negligence, gross negligence, or intentional misconduct of a third party. In civil actions for wrongful death, the claimant must establish negligence, gross negligence or intentional misconduct by a "preponderance of the evidence," which is lower than the criminal "beyond reasonable doubt" standard. This explains why in some instances, a civil wrongful death claim is pursued but the District Attorney's Office does not file criminal charges.
Wrongful death cases in California are governed by California Code of Civil Procedure sections 377.30 and 377.60. These statutes actually divide what falls under the general umbrella of "wrongful death" claims into two separate causes of action.
Wrongful Death Causes of Action
The first cause of action in any wrongful death case is the actual cause of action for "wrongful death." A wrongful death cause of action can be pursued by the decedent's surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and decedents of any deceased children. Through a wrongful death cause of action, aggrieved family members can recover compensation for their own loss of companionship and support suffered as a result of the decedent's death.
Survivorship Causes of Action
The second cause of action in a wrongful death case is known as a survivorship action. Survivorship actions are actions to pursue the decedent's own damages after the wrongful act but before the decedent actually died. The ability to recover these damages "survives" the decedent's death, thereby giving the cause of action its name. The damages recoverable through a survivorship action include but are not necessarily limited to medical bills, lost wages and personal property damage. Unlike a "wrongful death" cause of action, which can be pursued by the spouse and family members of the victim, a survivorship action can only be pursued by the decedent's estate.
Damage Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Case
The damages recoverable through a wrongful death lawsuit include the following:
Mental pain and anguish, and loss of companionship, comfort, solace, support and guidance
Reasonably expected losses in financial support.
Reasonably expected loss of services, protection, care, and/or assistance which the decedent provided to their family.
The decedent's medical expenses prior to their death.
Reasonable funeral expenses
Prior to 2022, California law did not permit the recovery of compensation for a decedent's pain and suffering. The decedent's claim for pain and suffering was said to extinguish on the death of the decedent. However, beginning in 2022 a temporary change in the law was enacted permitting (for now) the a decedent's estate to recover compensation for the decedent's pain and suffering.
Hiring Phillips & Associates for Your Wrongful Death Case
If you have suffered the death of a family member due to the conduct of a third party, you may have grounds to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death claims need to be handled by the most experienced of attorneys as they present unique complexities that novice attorneys may overlook. Phillips & Associates has been representing families in wrongful death actions for more than 30 years. We have the knowledge, experience, drive and resources to guide you through this difficult time and ultimately to achieve the best possible outcome in your wrongful death case. We always offer free consultations and we work on a pure contingency fee basis, so there is no up front fee for our services and no fee at all if we don't recover money on your behalf.
Phillips & Associates has vast experience in challenging insurance companies and and their armies of defense lawyers to ensure that all of our car accident clients are compensated fairly for your damages. There is no cost to you unless you win. Contact Phillips & Associates today for a free consultation. We will listen to your concerns and help you to understand your rights and options.
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5850 Canoga Ave., Ste. 400
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
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990 Highland Dr. Ste. 212-D
Solana Beach, CA 92075
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