How a Fresno Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You and Your Family
When someone else's negligent and reckless acts are responsible for the untimely death of another individual, the surviving family members may take legal action to hold the at-fault party accountable. A wrongful death attorney can assist these families in obtaining the maximum financial recovery.
The Fresno wrongful death attorneys from Central Valley Accident Lawyers work vigorously to get our clients the compensation they deserve. Our compassionate legal team is skilled in offering guidance through the filing process and offering emotional support along the way.
To learn more about our personal injury law firm or about how filing wrongful death claims works, please contact us. We offer a 100% free case assessment and can address all of your questions and concerns.
What Qualifies for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Generally, a death resulting from someone else’s negligent acts is considered wrongful and can qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit. Some common causes of wrongful death often involve motor vehicle accidents and reckless driving.
However, any act involving a wrongful act can qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit. Like any other personal injury case, negligence on the other party must be proven.
With so much money at stake, the insurance companies will make a vigilant effort to pay as little as possible in compensation to surviving family members.
This means that a strong case that will be difficult to argue must be constructed and supported with ample evidence in order to prove negligence and the damages owed.
Experienced wrongful death lawyers can assist with this, as well as present all legal options that will best benefit families.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. It is filed by the surviving family members of a victim who died due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another party.
It is not a criminal case, so it may not include consequences like jail time or fines, but it will result in compensating the surviving family.
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to obtain financial compensation from the at-fault party for the losses that the family has suffered. If a wrongful death claim is successful, financial compensation will be awarded from the at-fault party.
The amount of compensation will vary depending on the facts of the case, but it can include damages for the loss of income, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and emotional distress.
How Long Does Someone Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The statute of limitations sets a time period on how long someone has to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the claim is not filed in time, that person may lose the right to compensation.
If the event that caused the death occurred in Fresno, CA, then the accident would fall under California's statute of limitations, which is two years from the date of the decedent's passing to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Sometimes, there are exceptions. This is why it is advisable to immediately consult with a wrongful death lawyer to ensure the filing period is not missed.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The people eligible to file a wrongful death claim vary from state to state. In California, direct blood relatives of the deceased person are the main eligible groups. Here is a general overview of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Spouse - The decedent's spouse or domestic partner usually is the first person who has the right to file a wrongful death claim.
- Children - The children of the decedent share the same right to pursue a wrongful death claim if the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to do so.
- Siblings - Under limited circumstances, siblings of the decedent may file a wrongful death claim if there is not a spouse or children.
- Parents - Similar to siblings, parents of the decedent may also file wrongful death claims. However, there is no priority between siblings and parents.
- Dependents - Any person who relied on the decedent for financial support, such as stepchildren, may file a wrongful death claim.
- Representatives of the Estate - Official representatives of the estate can file a wrongful death claim, but the funds still go to the decedent’s heirs if he or she has any.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit is slightly different from filing a personal injury lawsuit and will require extensive legal backing.
To begin the filing process, the individual looking to file must confirm that he or she is eligible, as not every “family member” has the right to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Then, it must be determined who was at fault for causing the fatal accident and what damages are being claimed in the wrongful death suit.
To successfully secure compensation, it must be indicated that the at-fault party’s negligence led to the victim’s death. This can be accomplished with the four elements of negligence.
Four Elements of Negligence
- Duty of Care
The defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, which is a legal obligation to act reasonably and not cause harm. For example, drivers have a duty of care to other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to drive in a reasonable manner.
- Breach of Duty
The defendant breached their duty of care to act reasonably, causing harm to the victim. For example, a driver who runs a red light is breaching the duty of care to drive in a reasonable manner.
The defendant’s breach of duty caused the accident that led to the victim’s death. This indicates that the fatal accident would not have occurred if the defendant acted reasonably. For example, a driver running a red light and striking someone is caused by breaching the duty of care.
As a result of the death, the surviving family suffered damages. These damages can include financial losses, such as lost income and medical expenses, as well as non-financial losses, such as emotional distress and loss of companionship.
Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case
In a regular personal injury case, the victim can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party for damages. However, in a wrongful death case, the opportunity to hold the liable party accountable has been stolen from the victim.
The wrongful death is not the only devastating outcome of the event, but the surviving family’s turmoil must also be considered. This is why laws exist allowing families to sue for the wrongdoing done to a loved one. The following are the types of damages that can be recovered with a wrongful death claim.
These forms of damages hold a monetary value and can typically be proven with invoices, receipts, and medical records. They can consist of:
- The financial support that would have been provided to the family during the decedent’s anticipated life expectancy
- Loss of benefits, such as health insurance coverage
- Burial costs and funeral expenses
- Medical bills to treat injuries
- Ambulance ride and emergency room costs
- Property Damage
These forms of damages do not hold a monetary value but do qualify for compensation. It is also most prevalent in wrongful death cases. They can consist of:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship, love, support, and protection
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of training and guidance
Is the Settlement Taxable?
While the settlement in a lawsuit could be considered a form of “income” by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it is typically not taxable in a wrongful death case because it is not actual income.
This means that the tax laws do not apply to all forms of compensation, particularly the compensation awarded in a personal injury and wrongful death case.
According to the IRS, a wrongful death settlement, like a personal injury settlement, stems from a claim that is designed to compensate for losses, so it would be unfair to tax it as income. However, there are some exceptions.
If there is interest in a settlement, medical bills previously used as a tax deduction, or reimbursement for emotional distress damages, these areas may be taxed. A detailed consultation with a Fresno wrongful death lawyer can confirm these types of details and more, so that there are no surprises.
Why a Fresno Wrongful Death Lawyer Is So Beneficial
Navigating the legal system is generally a challenging process; navigating it while dealing with the grief of losing a loved one is not only challenging, but it is demanding on families as well.
Working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer offers guidance, absorbing the legal complexities and removing stress from the family. Here are some of the top benefits:
- Expertise: Knowledge and experience to effectively handle all aspects of the case, from proving negligence to negotiating a settlement to trying your case in court
- Legal Insight: Assistance in determining how valid a wrongful death case is, as not all circumstances are eligible
- Gather evidence: Help gathering evidence that supports the wrongful death claim and proves fault, such as police reports, medical records, and witness statements
- Calculate damages: Accurate calculation of total losses, taking into account economic damages, as well as non-economic damages
- Negotiate: Aggressively negotiate for a maximum settlement on behalf of the family, as most wrongful death cases are settled out of court with an attorney's help
- Litigate: Representation in court if the case does go to trial in order to recover maximum compensation
- Support: Provide support and guidance during this difficult time, helping families seek closure
- Peace of mind: Allow clients to focus on healing the loss of their loved one, while the firm handles all of the legal work
Consult with a Fresno Wrongful Death Attorney
Beginning a legal battle with the insurance companies during such a difficult time is a lot to bear. If you lost a loved one, please know you do not have to do this alone.
Our experienced wrongful death attorneys are available and ready to assist during every stage of the wrongful death claims process.
Central Valley Accident Lawyers is dedicated to bringing our clients justice. If you would like to learn how we can assist with your case, please schedule a free consultation.