If you have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation. Our firm understands that wrongful death claims are emotionally devastating to those left behind. Our goal is to help you through this difficult time and to hold accountable those who are responsible for causing your loved one’s death.
We have handled many wrongful death cases and have obtained substantial verdicts and settlements for our clients. We are dedicated to providing each client with personalized service and attention to detail. A Southern California wrongful death attorney can work on your behalf to help you obtain the fairest compensation possible under the law. Here, we’ll explore wrongful death in Southern California, what it means, and how we can help you pursue justice.
Understanding Wrongful Death in Southern California
Wrongful death refers to the loss of life caused by someone else’s negligence or intentional actions. The term “wrongful” refers to an action or inaction that violated the law, causing personal injury.
The following are common causes of wrongful deaths in SoCal:
- Auto Accidents: The most common cause of wrongful death in California is auto accidents, which account for nearly half of all wrongful deaths each year. Auto accident victims can be killed by drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and other negligent drivers.
- Medical Malpractice: Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who engage in negligent procedures or fail to provide proper care can be held responsible for causing a patient’s death.
- Workplace Accidents: Construction workers have the highest rate of fatal workplace accidents in Southern California, but those working in many other industries — including manufacturing plants and oil refineries — also face serious risks on the job that could lead to wrongful deaths.
- Elderly/Child neglect: Neglecting the elderly or children is a common cause of wrongful death claims. If an elderly man with dementia falls down the stairs due to a poorly maintained property, the landlord may face a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Slips and Falls: Slip-and-fall accidents often result in serious injuries that can lead to wrongful deaths. If someone trips over an unsecured rug in your office building and dies, the loved ones may sue for wrongful death.
- Nursing Home Neglect: Nursing homes are responsible for providing safe conditions for their residents at all times. However, these facilities are often understaffed and fail to meet this obligation regularly. When nursing home employees fail to provide proper care, and that results in death, they and the nursing home may be held liable.
Wrongful Death in Southern California
In 2016, 40,200 people in Los Angeles died in car accidents, a 6% increase over the previous year, according to the National Safety Council. One of the reasons cited for the high rate was increased driving since car sales and registrations increased in Southern California due to robust economic growth.
Over half (52%) of all traffic fatalities that occurred involved pedestrians. However, they are involved in only 14 percent of total crashes.
There was a total of 852 automobile accidents involving alcohol in 2016, making up 38 percent of all fatal vehicle accidents.
Wrongful Death Cases and Negligence
Naturally, wrongful death cases tend to be emotional and highly charged because they involve grieving families who file on behalf of the deceased. This could include a spouse, children (including adopted children), parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, or anyone else who would have been entitled to inherit from the victim (Civil Procedure Code 377.60)
In California, causation must be proven in wrongful death cases. Causation refers to the connection between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiff’s resulting damages. For example, if your loved one died because of medical malpractice by a doctor, then you must prove that this doctor’s actions caused your loved one’s death. The doctor must have been negligent for you to recover damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
The person filing the suit needs to prove that:
- The deceased was killed by another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional action (or inaction).
- The defendant owed your family member a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty, causing death to your loved one.
Past Wrongful Death Cases and Outcomes
If you lost a loved one due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another person or entity, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages for the pain and suffering your family member endured before he or she died, as well as the financial damages you suffered. While plaintiffs can sometimes lose these cases, they often win, as highlighted by some past cases below.
Sein v. Aston Martin Lagonda: Confidential Settlement
This case involved an Orange County anesthesiologist. He died as a result of the seat’s manufacturing and design defects in his 2004 Aston Martin DB9. After he was rear-ended, the driver’s seat collapsed, causing Dr. Sein’s fatal head injuries.
Doe v. Doe Trucking Company: $5 Million Settlement
The case involved a passenger in a truck who was killed in a fatal crash. As the driver lost control, he rolled down an embankment into traffic lanes, and the truck passenger was killed.
Hernandez v. County of Los Angeles: $3 Million Verdict
This wrongful death case involved Randy Hernandez and Los Angeles County. An L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy struck and killed Randy Hernandez after his vehicle was disabled on the 110 freeway. At the time of Randy’s death, the County attempted to improperly place the blame for Randy’s death on him and to improperly highlight his use of prescription marijuana. Randy was found not to be responsible for his death by the jury.
Wrongful death lawsuits are typically resolved through settlement negotiations before trial. Defendants often choose to settle wrongful death cases because they want to avoid paying out large sums of money in court. If no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial where a jury decides whether the defendant was negligent and how much compensation should be awarded to the plaintiff(s) in this particular case.
California is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that someone can be partially at fault for the accident that caused your loved one’s death. State law allows injured parties to collect damages even if they are 99% responsible for their injuries. These percentages can be difficult to determine. A Southern California wrongful death lawyer can help you understand your legal options under California law.
Potential Liabilities for Wrongful Death
The following is a list of potential liabilities associated with wrongful death:
- Manufacturers: If the product used was defective, the manufacturer may be liable for the resulting death. The law requires that manufacturers take reasonable steps to protect consumers from foreseeable dangers associated with their products. If a manufacturer knew (or should have known) about an inherent danger in their product, but failed to take reasonable steps to protect the consumer, the manufacturer could be liable for the death.
- Negligent Driver: If death was caused by another driver’s negligence, then the at-fault driver’s insurance company would likely be responsible for paying your damages.
- Premises Owner: If death occurs on someone else’s property and the owner didn’t provide adequate safety measures, he or she may be responsible for the damages.
- Nursing Home: Nursing homes are required to maintain safe environments for their patients and residents by providing adequate staffing levels and proper medical equipment.
- Government Entity: If a government agency employee was negligent while performing his or her duties (such as failing to install a traffic light at an intersection, resulting in a fatal accident) you may be able to file suit against that agency for damages related to your loss.
- Employer: An employer can be held liable for wrongful death if an employee dies due to negligence, such as requiring employees to work without proper safety equipment or training.
What to Do After an Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, it can be difficult to know what to do next. You may have questions about how to proceed with legal action, but you also want to make sure that you’re doing what’s legally right.
Here is a brief overview of what to do after an accident:
- Call 911 immediately to report the incident.
- Take photos of the scene, your injuries, and any vehicles involved.
- Get medical attention for the injuries sustained in the accident.
- File reports with the police department and DMV.
- Contact a personal injury lawyer in Southern California. He or she can help you to file a claim to recover damages.
Get Legal Help From Your Personal Injury Lawyer in Southern California
When someone dies due to negligence, the family is entitled to pursue compensation through a wrongful death claim. However, it may be difficult to get through your grief and focus on what needs to be done. Our lawyers at KJT Law Group have helped many people recover damages for wrongful death cases. We commit all the resources necessary to help you obtain the compensation that you deserve.
Let us handle your wrongful death case. Call us at (818) 507-8525 to get started.
If you or someone you love was injured due to another person’s negligence, contact KJT Law Group at (818) 507-8525 for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.