San Francisco Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one is never easy, no matter the cause of death, but if their death was preventable, your grief may also be met with anger and frustration. No amount of monetary compensation can ever make up for your loss, but filing a wrongful death lawsuit might help you achieve justice and provide important resources to reduce the financial hardship accompanying your loss.
The last thing you want to deal with in your time of loss is navigating through the California civil legal system. It is, therefore, important to seek counsel from an experienced San Francisco wrongful death lawyer who can help you understand your potential claims and your options to seek civil recovery.
Do You Have a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When a fatality occurs because of someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior, surviving family members or the state may file a lawsuit to receive compensation from the wrongdoer. Under California law, four elements must exist to have a valid wrongful death claim. Your San Francisco wrongful death attorney can help you understand the strength of your case and whether you have the legal right to pursue recovery.
A person or party acted negligently. Negligence is the failure to act in accordance with the standard of care expected by a reasonable person. For example, running a red stop light would be considered negligent behavior.
Though seemingly obvious, this is a specified element because a separate cause of action exists for a person who was injured but remains alive, regardless of the severity of their injuries.
The negligent act must have caused the victim’s death or was a substantial factor in the cause of death. In other words, the victim would still be alive if the defendant had not behaved the way they did.
Finally, the victim’s family must have suffered substantial, compensable loss because of the death. This often takes the form of financial expenses as well as mental and emotional anguish.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death is a civil cause of action, meaning claims are filed in civil court. In some situations, a case may also be brought in criminal court, depending on the circumstances. The cases are not dependent on one another.
Civil cases have a lower burden of proof, and punishment for the defendant is purely financial compensation. Criminal cases have a higher burden of proof and may result in fines, probation, or incarceration. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you file your case in the civil court system.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Each state has its own set of rules proclaiming who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. California law is specific regarding the family members (or their personal representatives) who can file a lawsuit for wrongful death:
- A surviving spouse,
- A domestic partner,
- Biological and adopted children,
- Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased), and
- Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were at least 50% dependent on the deceased for their financial support,
A party entitled to the property from the decedent by intestate succession may also be eligible to file a claim. This depends on who is still living when the decedent passes and may include the deceased person’s parents or siblings. In some cases, additional dependents may have the right to receive wrongful death damages as part of the action. These include a putative spouse, which is someone who, in good faith, believed that they were lawfully married to the deceased. It can also include the putative spouse’s children and parents or legal guardians of the deceased.
In order to have a right to compensation, individuals must prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased. Experienced wrongful death lawyers in San Francisco can determine if you or someone else in your family qualify to file a wrongful death claim.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death?
The statute of limitations is a time frame established to limit how long you can wait to file a lawsuit. Under California law, you generally have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit from the date the death occurs. After the two years pass, you may be barred from seeking legal recovery.
It is important to take time to process your grief, but it is also crucial that you seek counsel from an experienced San Francisco wrongful death lawyer and file your claim as soon as reasonably possible. Evidence and witnesses can become increasingly difficult to track down as time passes. Filing your claim quickly and starting the process will give you the best chance of success.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Claim?
Accidents do happen, and proving your loved one’s death was avoidable could be difficult. Your wrongful death attorney will likely initiate an independent investigation to gather evidence to determine exactly what happened. They can also ensure all evidence is obtained, documented, and preserved according to the law so that it may be used in trial if needed. The type of evidence required is unique to each claim. Some common evidence could include police reports, medical records, camera footage, and witness testimony.
In civil court cases, the person filing the lawsuit bears the burden of proof, which is the responsibility to prove what happened. The evidence presented must demonstrate that the accusation against the defendant is most likely true.
Examples of Wrongful Death Claims in California
No two wrongful death claims are exactly the same, but most will follow the same general premise. Anytime a fatality occurs because of someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior, a wrongful death claim may be possible. Though not an exhaustive list, here are some of the most common examples of accidents that result in wrongful death claims:
- Car and truck accidents,
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents,
- Medical malpractice,
- Defective products,
- Workplace accidents,
- Drunk driving accidents,
- Motorcycle accidents,
- Nursing home negligence, and
- Premises liability.
Do not be discouraged if the circumstances of your loved one’s death are not on this list. As long as the claim contains all of the elements of a wrongful death case, you may be eligible to seek legal recovery.
Choosing a San Francisco Wrongful Death Lawyer
When you are faced with grief and are in search of justice, you need a team of experienced wrongful death attorneys in San Francisco who understand the nuances of the California legal system and what it takes to provide successful legal representation. The experienced team at Boucher LLP is committed to providing meaningful assistance to those who have lost a loved one due to the careless actions of others.
Many family members find themselves struggling to cope not only with their new reality but also with the absence of loving support and financial security. No amount of money can ever repair the pain of losing someone, but it is the best our civil court system can do. We offer a free initial case consultation to discuss your unique situation and determine how we can work together to help you find some sense of peace and justice in this difficult time.