California Wrongful Death Lawyer

When an untimely death takes away your loved one, it’s hard to find the strength to consider all of the reasons why. Adjusting to your loss and accepting your new reality is unsettling enough; you must deal with children, earn a living, take on new household responsibilities, and manage emotionally-charged memories. It’s difficult to consider the hows and whys when you’re simply trying to make it through another day.

When an active, healthy person dies, his or her death may have involved an auto accident on a California road. Employees lose their lives while performing their job duties. Patients die from adverse medical events, medication side effects, and improper diagnosis. Some individuals sustain fatal injuries while walking, dancing, or playing in public places or entertainment venues. As you consider the circumstances that caused your loved one’s death, you should contact a wrongful death attorney to help answer your unanswered questions.

 

The Responsible Parties Should Pay for Your Loss

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we have worked with grieving families to recover damages for their loved one’s wrongful deaths. We understand the inherent legal and damage issues, and we use our firm’s experience and resources to overcome them.

Our attorneys have uncovered evidence that revealed the details of even the most complex cases. We’ve proven negligence against drivers who caused fatal accidents. We’ve reviewed medical malpractice events and analyzed them against the standards of care. We’ve found viable parties who were responsible for work-related injuries. We’ve documented the evidence, prepared our cases, and done whatever it took to recover damages for our clients and their families.

 

Our Law Firm’s Results

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we’ve worked to recover the damages our clients needed to provide a better future for their families. We understand that the wrongful death lawsuit process is difficult. In our past cases, our attorneys have responded with compassionate, dedicated service and a promise that we would do whatever we could to help our clients through their difficulties.

Our wrongful death attorneys have always kept our clients’ best interests in mind as we worked to resolve their cases. When defendants and their insurers provided honest opportunities to resolve our clients’ cases without litigation, we’ve negotiated fair settlements. When a trial presented the best opportunity to produce optimum results, we’ve prepared each case and resolved it in the courtroom.

Our wrongful death lawyers have produced consistent results because we’ve understood the issues and prepared each case to win. Our case results demonstrate our firm’s enthusiasm for producing the best outcomes for our clients.

  • $106,000,000 jury verdict: Wrongful death
  • $10,000,000 settlement: Wrongful death
  • $2,100,000 Jury verdict: Wrongful death of a prisoner
  • $5,000,000 settlement: Border patrol case/wrongful death
  • $7,000,000 settlement: Wrongful death

 

What Is Wrongful Death?

Each day, some California residents lose their lives while going through their daily activities. If their death is the result of a negligent act, family members and other legal beneficiaries have a legal right to recover damages. A wrongful death claim seeks damages based on the support your deceased loved one would have provided had he or she lived.

Several local and national agencies track and publish the statistics about accidental deaths locally and across the country. Consider the following:

  • Workplace accidents: Statistics from the 2017 California Department of Industrial Relations show that 376 Californians lost their lives while performing their jobs. These fatally injured workers were employed in agriculture, public administration, construction, education, leisure and hospitality, and other industries.
  • Auto accidents: 2017 Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents 231 traffic fatalities in San Diego County
  • Drownings: According to the California Department of Developmental Services, drowning is the number one cause of death for children under age five. Fifty-one children in this age group died from drownings during 2017, and 23 of these young children lost their lives in a swimming pool.
  • Medical errors: A Johns Hopkins research study found that medical errors were the number three cause of deaths nationwide. The study also found that the numbers were underreported. California medical facilities and practitioners report all adverse events to the Medical Board of California. They have no duty to report these events to injured patients.
  • Miscellaneous: People lose their lives because of defective products, severe dog bite injuries, fires caused by a variety of situations and conditions, electrical shocks from ungrounded or uninsulated wires, and many other unexpected events.

 

Parties to a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In California, a wrongful death lawsuit allows a prioritized list of survivors to recover compensation. They have a right to present a claim or file a lawsuit when a loved one dies because of a wrongful act or the neglect of another. Those who may file a lawsuit include:

  • The decedent’s spouse, domestic partner, children, and grandchildren
  • A “putative spouse,” who believes that the marriage to a decedent is valid, and the putative spouse’s dependent children, stepchildren, or parents
  • A minor who resided in a decedent’s house for 180 days before the decedent’s death and for whom the decedent contributed 50 percent or more in support

 

Who Is Responsible for Wrongful Deaths?

Wrongful deaths often occur because of the same types of negligent acts, errors, and omissions that cause non-fatal injuries. Each negligent act is unique. The circumstances often bring together active participants, unbiased witnesses, and uninvolved bystanders. Often, more than one person or entity shares liability for a fatal injury. When we’ve investigated our clients’ cases, we’ve understood that it was important to review all of the available evidence, analyze each case, and identify all of the potentially responsible parties.

  • Auto liability: When a negligent driver causes a fatal car accident, other parties are often responsible as well. If the person was operating a vehicle owned by someone else, the owner shares the driver’s legal responsibility. If a defect or malfunction contributed to the accident, the manufacturer, maintenance company, or repair mechanic is responsible for their actions.
  • Trucker liability: Truck drivers are legally responsible when their actions fatally injure someone. If the trucker is driving for a commercial carrier, a list of additional people or entities share the driver’s legal responsibility: the trucker’s employer, truck or trailer owner, shipper, loading contractor, and repair and maintenance servicer. An employer may also have an additional exposure if he or she knew the driver had an adverse driving history but allowed him to potentially cause a truck accident anyway.
  • Premises liability: Property owners are legally responsible for conditions and activities on their properties. If a person sustains fatal injuries due to a premises condition, crime, vicious dog, pool drowning, or other situation, other people share liability based on their activities. The maintenance and security companies, any contractor who improperly completes repairs, a dog owner, or others may be responsible.
  • Product liability: If a defective product causes a fatal injury, the designer, manufacturer, or distributor may be legally liable.
  • Workplace liability: When an employer provides worker’s compensation benefits, he has no additional legal responsibility for his employee’s wrongful death while on the job. A relative may file a lawsuit against a non-employer or non-coworker if he or she caused a fatal workplace injury or an auto accident. If a defective product not manufactured or sold by the decedent’s employer caused a fatal injury, the family also has a cause of action against the manufacturer.
  • Medical negligence: A medical professional is legally responsible if his or her acts cause injuries that lead to a person’s wrongful death.

 

Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death judgment or settlement recovers legally compensable economic and non-economic damages. Wrongful death plaintiffs have no legal right to recover punitive damages. Settlements consider the decedent’s life expectancy.

Economic damages include the following:

  • Financial support the deceased would have provided
  • Gifts or benefits the heirs would have received
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Value of services the decedent would have provided

Non-economic losses are similar to those payable for an injury claim. They include emotional and psychological components:

  • Loss of consortium (society, sex, services) for a wife or domestic partner
  • Family support, affection, and other services

A Survivor’s Lawsuit

The decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest may recover additional damages through a survivor’s lawsuit. The decedent’s estate files the lawsuit for pain, suffering, and other damages the decedent could have recovered had he lived. A survivor’s action may also recover punitive damages if the plaintiffs prove by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant committed an act of malice, oppression, or fraud.

How Irresponsible Parties Protect and Defend Their Legal Interests—and How We Fight Back

Responsible parties and their insurance companies often find creative ways to avoid acknowledging responsibility. Sometimes, they simply delay resolving a case while they wait for adequate settlement authority. Other times, they truly believe they have a chance of winning a case

Auto and Truck Accidents

Negligent drivers often deny liability, as they honestly believe they didn’t cause an accident. Unless an insurance company investigation finds negative evidence, or an unbiased witness tells a different story, the insurance company will likely accept the insured’s version. The company will defend a case until a judge or jury forces them to pay.

Product Defects

Manufacturers often refuse to acknowledge that their product is defective and capable of causing fatal injuries. Acknowledging a defect diminishes a company’s reputation, flattens its sales, and affects its financial bottom line. Manufacturers and insurance companies often expend a good deal of energy trying to retrieve a potentially defective product. When they have the opportunity to test a product before the plaintiffs, they sometimes conduct destructive testing.

While it might not be a manufacturer’s intention to minimize a plaintiff’s ability to prove a product defect, that’s often the result. When a plaintiff can’t get the product before the manufacturer accomplishes destructive testing, their experts have difficulty proving a defect.

Self-Insured Corporations

Large companies sometimes insure themselves for losses up to a certain dollar amount. Sometimes, they have insurance but still pay a large retention limit when the insurance company settles a claim. Insurance companies and attorneys often handle the defense, but when the money comes out of a corporation’s budget, they usually have some control over whether to settle or try a case.

Doctors and Medical Professionals

Doctors must report “adverse events” to the Medical Board, but that doesn’t mean they will admit fault or report a claim to their malpractice insurance carrier. If they do report a claim, some insurance policies allow doctors to approve or disapprove an insurance company’s decision to settle.

Insurance Company Defense

Some insurance companies defend cases hoping to force an economic standoff. They realize that some plaintiff’s attorneys don’t have the manpower or the resources to prepare and try a wrongful death case. Insurance companies learn from experience that many plaintiffs will settle reasonably if forced to incur costs that will reduce their net settlement.

When defendants and insurance companies feel optimistic about their chances, they sometimes decide to try a case. This happens when they feel certain that their traditional defenses will convince a judge or jury to render a low verdict.

  • No negligence: Their defendant did nothing wrong.
  • Assumption of risk: The decedent understood the risks and chose to accept a situation that caused his fatal injuries.
  • Comparative negligence: California’s pure comparative negligence standard reduces a plaintiff’s damages by their negligence percentage.
  • No defect: When a product causes fatal injuries, the defendants deny the defect. Plaintiffs overcome this defense when they have enough evidence to prove a defect exists.
  • Damages: If plaintiffs prove that an incident occurred, the defendants may try to prove that it did not cause the fatal injuries alleged.

At Gomez Trial Attorneys, we’ve relied on our lawyers’ experience and our firm’s resources as we’ve investigated, analyzed, and prepared our clients’ cases, overcoming the above tactics and more. We’ve moved our cases forward through discovery demands and lengthy trial presentations. Defense attorneys and insurers understand that we never back down. That’s why we’ve produced the best outcomes for our clients.

 

Call Our California Wrongful Death Attorneys

If you suspect that your loved one was fatally injured as a result of someone’s negligent acts, we want to help you get the justice you deserve. Gomez Trial Attorneys has recovered $500 million in damages for our injured clients. We’d like the opportunity to review your wrongful death case to determine if we can help you. Call us today at (619) 237-3490 or complete our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.


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