A wrongful death in Riverside can be caused by any number of acts or omissions. A fatality might result from a distracted driver, a construction accident, a physician’s error, a dangerously defective product, an unsafe home or business premises or even an intentional act. In general terms, a wrongful death can occur when one person causes the death of another without legal justification. More specifically, the California Wrongful Death Act addresses fatalities resulting from the “wrongful act or neglect of another.”
The claim can be filed in court in the form of a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s a civil action and not a criminal prosecution. The burden of proof for people claiming a wrongful death is a preponderance of the evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. A preponderance of the evidence means that the claim is more likely true than not true. It isn’t as strenuous of a burden of proof as in a criminal case. If found guilty in a civil case, the defendant can’t be sentenced to jail. When the wrongful death case has been proved by a preponderance of the evidence, the family of the person who died is then awarded monetary damages.
Only the survivors of a deceased person are allowed to bring a lawful death lawsuit. Proper parties are restricted to a surviving spouse or domestic partner, surviving children, or if none of the above, anybody entitled to the deceased’s property through intestate succession. Those who can take by intestate succession are detailed in the California Probate Act. Others who might be able to participate in bringing a wrongful death action are a putative or reputed spouse and the children of that person, any step-children of the deceased and the deceased’s parents.
These cases usually involve two counts. The first is for wrongful death. The second count involves a survival action. In the wrongful death case, specific heirs can recover their own sole and separate damages for their individual personalized losses as a result of their family member’s death. These damages aren’t part of the decedent’s estate. They’re both economic and non-economic in nature. Economic damages might include loss of financial support to be received during the decedent’s lifetime along with funeral and burial expenses. Non-economic damages might include the reasonable value of household services the decedent would have provided and the loss of love, comfort, society and affection of the deceased. The survival action involves damages for medical expenses incurred by the decedent along with any lost earnings before their death. These damages are part of the decedent’s estate. In a small minority of cases, damages might also involve punitive damages. As opposed to a wrongful death action, anybody entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate can seek recovery. That includes people who would take pursuant to a will or trust.
Both the wrongful death and the survival action must be brought within a specific period of time. That’s known as the statute of limitations. Surprisingly though, each of these actions has a different statute of limitations. The general rule under the wrongful death statute requires a lawsuit to be filed within two years of the deceased person’s death. For a survival action, the statute of limitations generally begins running on the date that the deceased person’s claim arose. In both cases, the law might permit the statute of limitations to be extended. It’s always recommended that an injured person retain our law firm as soon as possible after their accident so we can protect their right to a timely filing along with other important rights they have.
Wrongful death and survival actions involve very complex litigation with very seasoned insurance defense attorneys. Duque Law is an experienced, aggressive, and successful wrongful death law firm with offices in Riverside, California. We’re compassionate, and we’re sensitive to the fact that our clients have suffered an enduring and permanent loss.
Contact our Riverside County Personal Injury Attorney at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away. You can even use our online contact form, and we’ll reply to you quickly.
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