The unique challenges presented by a wrongful death claim.
There are unique challenges presented by a wrongful death claim. Someone facing one of these difficult legal actions will need an attorney with the empathy, insight and skill to determine the damages recoverable and fight for fair compensation. The attorney needs to be familiar with the right experts who can evaluate the claimant's losses, and know how to document and gather evidence of those losses for a judge, jury and/or claims adjuster.
A skilled wrongful death attorney needs to command the capital needed to underwrite the costs of this sometimes very expensive litigation, and the guts to commit his resources toward the goal of obtaining a fair recovery for you. These cases are emotional, often forcing you to confront your relationship with your loved one and conveying to a judge or jury how important that person was to you and why you should be adequately compensated. If you have lost someone you love through the negligent conduct of another, you can count on Choulos Choulos & Wyle to provide the serious help you need.
The death of a loved one is always a traumatic experience. The situation can be made worse if the death was the result of someone else's carelessness or negligence. At the San Francisco law offices of Choulos Choulos & Wyle , we have over 100 years of combined years of experience representing the families of those who have lost loved ones through wrongful death. Contact us Link to Contact Us today to speak with one of our experienced wrongful death attorneys.
About California Wrongful Death Claims
A potential wrongful death claimant should speak with lawyer who is experienced with the procedures involved in making the claim itself as well as the nature and extent of the damages which can be recovered under California law.
Historically a person could recover only those damages he suffers because of injury or damage to his own body or his own property interests. The ability to sue for damages because of the death of another is a relatively new theory in common law. Because it is a "new" theory, the law regarding wrongful death has been created by state legislatures or courts and not inherited from the legal tradition begun over 1000 years ago in England.
Controlled by Statute
Each state, therefore, has its own "wrongful death statutes" or other law under which a person may claim damage because of someone else's death. The provisions of these statutes are closely aligned: therefore, the discussion that follows may be similar to the law in states other than California. However, you need to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney licensed to practice law in the state in which the claim will be litigated before you can make an informed decision about proceeding with a wrongful death action.
The wrongful death statutes in California, as in most states, have both procedural and substantive provisions. They establish who has a cause of action, and what damages the appropriate claimants may be able to recover.
Who may have a cause of action in California for wrongful death?
In California, you are authorized to seek wrongful death damages if you legally would be one of the decedent heirs under the probate laws of California. For example, the first-in-line surviving spouse, children, and surviving issue of deceased children of the decedent: these people have the right to claim wrongful death damages "jointly and severally" - that is, they share a single claim for damages. If there are no such claimants, next in line are the person's parents; then brothers and sisters; then the children of deceased brothers and sisters; then grandparents; and then their lineal descendants. As soon as someone has a place in line under the statute, that person's rights ends the claims of all others.
Another class of claimants, if not qualified under the first group, is the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, and parents of the decedent IF these claimants can prove that they were dependent on the decedent at the time of the decedent's death. A "putative" spouse is a person who can prove that he or she had a good faith belief that he or she was married to the decedent but was, in fact, not married to the decedent.
Yet another class of claimants exists under California law. A minor who can prove that he was a resident of the decedent's household for at least the 180 days before the death AND that he was dependent upon the decedent for at least 50% of his support at the time of the death can be a wrongful death claimant.
What damages might claimants recover for wrongful death?
Where there is a claim for wrongful death, the claimant has not suffered personal injury. When a person is entitled to a claim for wrongful death under the law as described above, the claim is for the loss of the relationship with the deceased person. Unfortunately, a claimant cannot successfully seek pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, or the other kinds of damages which can be sought in a personal injury case. A claimant cannot recover damages for grief or sorrow, no matter how destructive that suffering may have been. However, the law holds that certain future emotional and economic interests have been destroyed by the death, and permits a wrongful death claimant to recover damages for those losses.
The San Francisco wrongful death attorneys at Choulos, Choulos, & Wyle are experienced presenting the magnitude of the loss a person has suffered. Wrongful death claims are technical and require specific knowledge and experience. At Choulos, Choulos, & Wyle our wrongful death attorney know how to best present you claim for emotional and economic loss caused by the death of your loved one.
In California, juries are instructed that they can award a claimant three kinds of damages:
- The loss of the love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace, moral support, and (if a spouse is a claimant) consortium of the decedent;
- The value of the household services the decedent would have provided in the future, if any, and
- The value of the financial support which the claimant would have received from the decedent but for the death.
What is a survival action?
A limited portion of the decedent's claim survives his or her death and can be combined with a wrongful death claim and is known as a "survival action". A survival action is brought to recover such items as the medical bills and lost income. Unfortunately, in California, the decedent's claim for pain and suffering they experienced up to the time of death dies with them, leaving the economic damage for lost income and medical bills that existed before the death. However, a claim for punitive damages survives the wrongful death, and can make a large contribution to the recovery that might be available to the decedent's estate --- in the appropriate case. The limitations of a survival action do not in any way limit the wrongful death damages as outlined above.
Contact Our Firm Today
For more information on how our San Francisco wrongful death attorney can help you understand your options and represent you with sensitively as well as expertise, contact Choulos, Choulos, & Wyle today to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer.
Successful Case Results
Bicycle Accident - Wrongful Death Case
Ten-year-old child run over and killed by a private transit bus while riding his bicycle from the sidewalk into the crosswalk.
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Death of a Husband and Father
Successful settlement on behalf of the surviving wife and two sons of a man who was killed in a commercial bus crash.
Learn more about this case by clicking here