After losing a loved one, you may feel quite lost yourself. In addition to the grief you’re feeling after such a wrongful death caused by another’s negligence, it’s normal to feel unsure and untrusting of everything and everyone.
On top of sorrow and grief, there may also be some panic and anxiety filtering in as you face an uncertain future. It’s natural to want to turn away from conflict, to heal yourself and your family, accept the insurance payout, and move on with your lives.
However, without adequate compensation, particularly if the deceased was the breadwinner for your family, what kind of financial future can you envision realistically?
We understand your situation. No one wants to get caught up in the blame game. After all, you’re grieving right now. You may not want to start a lawsuit that you’re not emotionally prepared to handle.
But while it’s normal to be hesitant, it’s not OK to be stuck wondering if you should.
Kuzyk Law is here for you. We’ll do the fighting so you can heal.
You won’t regret calling our wrongful death attorneys for a free consultation. But you may kick yourself later when the dust settles and you realize the insurance company’s meager offering has already run out, and you’re left holding the bills.
Isn’t it worth a few minutes of your time to see if you have a case? We think so. You won’t know until you speak with us. Call 661-945-6969 to schedule a time for your free consultation.
What Defines Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death cases, predicated on the negligence of another party, are sudden, unexplained, and traumatic accidents that result in death.
Whether stemming from a careless, deliberate or willful act of another, wrongful death can be caused by wrongful or negligent acts such as:
- Violent crimes
- Failure to follow standard safety regulations
- Failure to warn of potential dangers
- Actions that are considered reckless
In other words, a wrongful death is the death of a person in a manner that could have been prevented had the offending party taken more care.
Here are a few examples of what constitutes a wrongful death case:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Premises liability accidents, such as slip and fall injuries
- Product liability cases involving a defective or dangerous product that results in death
- Accidental poisonings, medication errors and overdoses
- Drowning, boating and recreation accidents
- Workplace accidents and illnesses
Wrongful death can tear families apart in their mental anguish as they wonder “what if?”
Money can do a lot of things but it can’t bring back your loved one. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to pay your bills without going into crippling debt or bankruptcy.
In the wake of the death of your spouse, child, partner, etc., you likely have to return to work at some point, keep up with the mortgage, pay funeral expenses, and so much more. Monetary compensation may be able to provide some measure of comfort as you can depend on something to cushion your fall.
Do You Have a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Not every wrongful death comes with an automatic ticket to a lawsuit. Certain parameters and conditions must be met in order to proceed. If we determine you don’t have a case, you can move on knowing you did what you could. But if you do have a case, we can talk about the steps needed, one by one, to get to a successful conclusion.
There are several elements of a wrongful death claim. Many of them are similar to a personal injury claim. A wrongful death claim can be filed if the deceased person would have been able to file a personal injury claim against the defendant had their death not taken place.
Those elements include:
- Existence of duty of care
- Breach of the duty of care, or negligence
Each element must be analyzed to ensure it meets the requirements for a case. This is where your wrongful death lawyer comes in. He or she knows the ins and outs of each of these elements in order to quickly determine whether you have a viable case. Not all cases meet these strict guidelines:
1. Existence of Duty of Care
This is pretty straightforward, as in most cases, there does exist duty of care between a defendant and a plaintiff. Duty of care is a legal obligation that says an individual should uphold a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others, such as operating a motor vehicle such as a car, motorcycle or truck. When that is violated, death can result and blame can be assigned.
2. Breach of That Duty
A breach of duty of care isn’t as easy to establish. One must show that the defendant failed to act with a reasonable degree of care OR that he or she violated a statute. This could involve driving under the influence or texting while driving, putting in place the events that would take the life of the victim.
Causation is also difficult to flesh out because one must prove that the accident and resulting death would not have occurred if it weren’t for the defendant’s negligence.
The other party’s lawyer may argue that even though their client acted negligently, the death would have occurred anyway, regardless of the negligence and therefore there is no liability on the part of the defendant.
These may all sound similar and indeed they are. Only a qualified wrongful death attorney knows the nuances of each and can help you sort each out. Determining whether you have a valid case in a wrongful death claim falls on the shoulders of your wrongful death attorney.
Kuzyk Law has over four decades of experience working with wrongful death cases of all kinds. We have seen everything. We know how to approach them and what constitutes negligence. Our team can determine quite quickly whether you have a case or not. It all starts with that first phone call. Remember, it’s free. Call us at 661-945-6969.
Damages Available for a Wrongful Death Claim
When considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you may wonder what can be compensated. You may be entitled to compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial costs
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Punitive damages (if applicable)
As you can see, compensation includes both economic and non-economic damages. After all, you didn’t just lose a source of income, you lost a person – someone you loved very much and depended on for companionship. You thought you would have that person in your life forever and suddenly that has all changed. Where do you go from here? There should be some justice for that.
Let’s go over some of the areas of compensation in further detail:
- Mental anguish: If you were to become inured in an accident and file a personal injury claim for yourself, you would be able to seek compensation for your own pain and suffering. However, in a wrongful death suit, you can’t seek the same for the victim because they are deceased. What you can do is seek compensation for mental anguish on behalf of the beneficiaries for the emotional suffering you have all experienced as a result of losing your loved one.
- Loss of companionship, guidance and solace: You may seek recovery for the value of the loss of your loved one’s companionship, guidance, society and solace. As we noted above, losing a loved one goes beyond the monetary loss and into the emotional. It’s not as quantifiable on the surface but it’s still real and just as important if not more so than the financial blow you have suffered.
- Medical bills: Many victims of wrongful death incur medical bills as they are rushed to the ER, go through surgeries to save their life, undergo ICU support, and more. These expenses are recoverable, as they can amount to thousands and tens of thousands of dollars over the course of treatment, however brief.
- Funeral and burial expenses: With the average cost of funeral and burial hitting $10,000 and up these days, there’s no doubt that these costs can leave the surviving loved ones facing a big challenge. How will you come up with the cash to pay the funeral home? Everyone wants to honor their loved one’s life in the best way possible without worrying about dollar amounts. That’s why you can recover the full cost of funeral and burial expenses under your lawsuit.
- Lost financial support: If the deceased was the sole breadwinner, top wage earner or even made a significant contribution to the family’s finances, you are able to seek compensation for the value of these lost wages, as well as any future benefits or opportunities your loved one would have received to contribute to the household finances had they not perished.
- Punitive damages: Designed to punish the defendant, you may seek punitive damages if there is sufficient evidence that the defendant acted with malice or conscious and deliberate disregard to the health, safety and welfare of the victim.
Keep in mind, there are some rules as to who can file a wrongful death claim. In most states, only beneficiaries, such as the spouse, children or parents of the deceased, can legally file such a claim.
Kuzyk Law can determine an amount to seek for some or all of the above damages. Call us today.
What You Can Expect in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
It’s important to note that not all cases end up in a courtroom battle like you see on TV. Most times, such cases rarely make it to the news and most result in a quiet settlement between the two parties. There may be some road blocks and challenges along the way that come up that can change the outcome or alter the course. This is why you need qualified, experienced wrongful death lawyers going to bat for you. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get sidelined by those routine challenges and lose heart.
Here is a look at the wrongful death lawsuit process and what you can expect as it moves along.
- Discovery process: This is when both sides obtain information about the other regarding the case, including documents, photos, depositions, interviews and statements.
- Legal motions: This is when your attorneys will make legal arguments to the court regarding disputes over evidence or details about the case that need further clarifications.
- Settlement: This conference takes place between a judge and both attorneys to try and reach a settlement to avoid going to trial. This saves a lot of time, hassle and money in the end.
- Trial: If no settlement can be reached, a trial date is set. Both sides present evidence, call their own witnesses, cross-examine the other’s witnesses and present their legal arguments. A judge or jury will return with a verdict and the amount of damages will be decided.
- Appeals: If not satisfied with the verdict, either side can file an appeal, which requests a re-examination of all the evidence in a new trial later on.
If it sounds overwhelming and time consuming, don’t worry. Yes, cases like these can take a long time to come to conclusion. However, the end goal is bigger than the sum of its parts. The right wrongful death lawyer will hold your hand throughout the entire process, keeping you apprised of important dates and decisions.
When to Start
You may still not be convinced that a wrongful death lawsuit is for you. It’s normal to feel that way. Confusion, grief and sadness can certainly cloud judgement in times like these. An unbiased party like Kuzyk Law can cut through the fog and tell you once and for all if you have a case. Then, you can decide from there if you want to pursue this course of action. We can tell you one thing for sure: the “not knowing” will follow you throughout your life if you don’t at least try.
However, you don’t have a lot of time on your side to make this decision. The statute of limitations to file a wrongful death case in California is two years in most cases, including truck, motorcycle and car accidents. Any cases filed against the government must occur within six months. (Note: these deadlines are when the cases must be filed, not necessarily concluded. They are not a guarantee of swiftness of conclusion for any case.)
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, the statute of limitations could be extended in the case of a murder in a criminal case, or if the deceased was a minor or mentally insane at the time of the death as part of a wrongful death suit.
Why impose time limits? This is so both parties have time to gather and present evidence. We know from experience that the longer you wait to take action, the higher the chance that crucial evidence is damaged, lost or destroyed.
And while two years may sound like a long time, it goes by in the blink of an eye, especially when you’re trying to claw your way back to normal, both emotionally and financially.
Contact Kuzyk Law
Call Kuzyk Law now for your FREE initial consultation at 661-945-6969. We will take it from there. During this consultation, we will answer the many questions you likely have, ask our own questions about the incident, and discuss whether or not you have a valid case.
We understand this is the last call you want to be making. After all, you just recently lost a loved one. This kind of crushing blow leaves a family reeling. We know. We see it every day. We also see too many people lose their chance at fair compensation to help them live comfortably as they move on.
Once the ball is rolling, you can leave the details to us and concentrate on what’s really important right now – healing. Remember, you are not on your own in all this. Let us help you ease your financial burdens by acquiring rightful compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.
The time for action is now. Please call our wrongful death attorneys at 661-945-6969.