Santa Barbara Wrongful Death Attorneys
Legal Representation After a Fatal Accident
When a loved one dies due to the wrongful act or neglect of another, survivors are devastated. A wrongful death claim can be made by the survivors, most often the parents, children, and spouses, to collect compensation for the loss of their loved one.
A legal team needs to prove that the negligent party’s actions caused or contributed to the death of your loved one. The NordstrandBlack PC legal term has the experience and knowledge necessary to get the justice you deserve. Our Santa Barbara personal injury lawyers will answer your questions, and inform you of your rights to recover economic and emotional losses. Although most cases settle before trial, insurance companies are more likely to settle a case if they know they're facing an experienced trial lawyer. We provide a free consultation and will sit down with you to discuss and evaluate your potential claims.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim arises when a person dies as a result of a wrongful act or neglect of another. A wrongful death claim is a civil action brought by the surviving family of the deceased. In a civil action, the survivors seek monetary compensation. This is different from a criminal prosecution by the state that seeks to punish the wrongdoer.
What Are Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death includes any type of act where one person’s negligence causes the death of another person. The most common wrongful death claims include:
- Vehicle accidents (car, big rig, boat, pedestrian, bicycle, plane, train, etc.)
- Unsafe premises (slip and falls)
- Dog bites
- Defective product
- Work accidents
- Nursing home negligence
How Long Do I Have to Make a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are subject to California’s statute of limitations. This means a lawsuit must be filed within a certain amount of time. In California, time deadlines depend on the type of wrongful death claim and whether a government entity is the wrongdoer. If you fail to file your claim within the statute of limitations you may be forever barred from bringing your claim, regardless of the merit of your claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 allows only certain people to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. These people include:
- Victim’s surviving spouse
- Victim’s surviving children
- Victim’s step-children
- Victim’s parents
- Minors living in the victim's household for at least six months who were dependent on the victim for half or more of the minor’s support
What Can You Recover from a Wrongful Death Claim?
When we accept a wrongful death case, we aggressively pursue compensation and guide families in recovering their losses. Every case is different and the amount of recovery will depend on the facts of your particular case. Wrongful death damages fall into two categories, economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are associated with the death itself, including:
- Funeral/burial expenses
- Financial support
- Lost gifts or benefits
- Ambulance/medical/hospital bills caused by the wrongful act or neglect up to the time of death
- Reasonable value of household services
Non-economic damages, also called emotional losses, include:
- The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, moral support
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations
- The loss of training and guidance
What Is the Standard for Determining Compensation for Emotional Losses?
There's no fixed standard of compensation for non-economic damages. A jury is instructed to use their judgment to award a reasonable amount of compensation based on the evidence and common sense.
What Is a Survival Action?
California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.30 et seq. provides that a second action, for survival, can be brought against a wrongdoer for wrongful death. A survival cause of action can only be brought if the victim didn't die immediately after the wrongful act. Even if the victim lived only a short time after the accident, a survival action may still be appropriate.
A survival action is brought by a victim's personal representative or successor in interest on his behalf.
A new law, S.B. 447, signed by Governor Newsom on October 1, 2021 added Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 377.34, which includes language stating that: “in an action or proceeding by a decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest on the decedent’s cause of action, the damages recoverable may include damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement if the action or proceeding was granted a preference pursuant to [C.C.P.] Section 36 before January 1, 2022, or was filed on or after January 1, 2022, and before January 1, 2026.”
Given compliance with CCP section 337.34, damages recoverable in a survival action include the loss or damage that the victim suffered from the time of injury until their death. These damages include any damages that the victim would've been entitled to recover had he lived, such as recovery of a decedents damages for pain, suffering, and disfigurement, medical expenses, wage losses, and punitive or exemplary damages.
What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Action and a Survival Action?
In California, if a loved one is killed by the wrongful act of another there are two types of claims that the heirs or the estate can bring: a wrongful death action and a survival action.
A wrongful death action is an action brought by the decedent’s heirs, specified in CCP 337.60, alleging the death was caused by the wrongful act or negligence of another. Damages vary from case-to-case.
A survival action is an action for personal injuries of the victim that happened before they died. It's technically a claim for the victim brought by their estate. This means the estate can recover the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages.
Even though wrongful death actions and survival actions are governed by two different statutes, it's often appropriate to join them together for purposes of a lawsuit. In some situations, it is better to bring only one of the claims. NordstrandBlack PC understand the legal differences between these statutes and vigorously pursues the appropriate remedy for our clients.
How Much Will Your Office Charge for Representing Me?
NordstrandBlack PC offers a free consultation and represents wrongful death clients on a contingency fee basis. This means there is no fee if there is no recovery.
NordstrandBlack PC Can Help You or Your Loved One
Attorneys at NordstrandBlack PC have over 75 years of combined experience. We are caring, compassionate, and committed to providing the highest quality legal representation to our clients. We know the law. We know how insurance companies work and we fight for our clients. If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful act or negligence of another call our office today for your free consultation at (866) 298-2041.
- Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
- Statute of Limitations
- California Code of Civil Procedure section 377.30