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Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer
Wrongful Death Attorney in Sacramento, CA
When a family loses a loved one after a sudden and tragic event, it can be devastating. When someone dies unexpectedly due to the negligence or reckless actions of another, family members may also be grappling with feelings of frustration and may not quite know what to do next. No one expects that he or she will need to consult with a lawyer but seeking out the counsel of an experienced Sacramento wrongful death attorney is an important step after such an ordeal.
After more than two decades, the lawyers at Kreeger Law Firm have seen countless wrongful death cases and know exactly how you are feeling. Dealing with a legal suit against the party responsible for your loss can be difficult for many people, which is why our firm makes it as painless as possible to move forward with your case. The reality is that after you have suffered an avoidable loss, you and your family are entitled to seek compensation and we can help.
Call our office at 916-782-8400 to schedule a free consultation and get your wrongful death questions answered. We represent bereaved families throughout Northern California.
How Can Kreeger Law Firm Help Me?
The attorneys at Kreeger Law Firm have more than 25 years of experience handling civil claims for California clients, including wrongful death claims. We understand how devastating the untimely death of a loved one can be and we approach every case we take with compassion, integrity, and a relentless drive to help you and your family secure as much compensation as possible to make moving on a little easier.
Our firm has the strength and resources of a large, big-city firm with the atmosphere of a small family-owned business. Our Sacramento wrongful death attorneys take the time to get to know every client personally, so we can fully understand the breadth and depth of a wrongful death’s effects. If you recently experienced a wrongful death in your family, our lawyers can help you determine your best options for legal recourse.
When you choose the Kreeger Law Firm to represent your wrongful death claim in California, our team will thoroughly review all of the evidence and documentation you have to support your claim. In some wrongful death cases, plaintiffs have the right to compensation for the decedent’s losses that accrued between the time they sustained their final injury or illness and their death. Other compensation could provide relief for the surviving family’s financial losses and emotional pain from the death of a loved one. Our team will walk you through every phase of the wrongful death claim process and help you manage the situation with more confidence.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney for My Wrongful Death Claim?
The untimely death of a loved one is not only an emotional blow but also an economic one. A wrongful death may require you and your family to make funeral arrangements you didn’t expect and lead to a host of other expenses. When another person or party causes a wrongful death, it’s essential to secure legal representation as soon as possible to maximize the surviving family’s recovery.
A skilled Sacramento personal injury attorney can handle a grieving family’s legal concerns, insurance problems, and a host of other matters so the survivors can mourn peacefully. Hiring a lawyer may seem expensive but a good wrongful death attorney can maximize the compensation a plaintiff receives from a wrongful death claim and offer a better degree of representation than a grieving survivor could manage alone.
Ultimately, hiring an experienced California wrongful death attorney to represent your case is a solid investment in peace of mind. The Kreeger Law Firm can help you determine the full range of available damages in your claim, so you know what to expect from the proceedings you’re about to face. We can provide comprehensive and compassionate legal representation when your family needs it most.
What Is Wrongful Death?
In legal terms, a “wrongful death” refers to any fatality caused by negligence or unnatural causes. This term may also apply to criminal homicide cases. If one person intentionally kills another person, the killer would likely face criminal charges from the state as well as a civil action for wrongful death from the victim’s family.
In many ways, a wrongful death case functions very similarly to a personal injury lawsuit. The major difference is that a close relative or personal representative of the victim’s estate files the lawsuit on behalf of the deceased individual. To succeed in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant caused the death in question, either through negligence or through an intentional tort such as an assault or homicide. The plaintiff must also have evidence of the extent of the losses resulting from the defendant’s actions, including funeral and burial costs, lost income, lost valuation of investments, and the family’s pain and suffering.
Like any other type of civil claim, a wrongful death lawsuit is subject to the California statute of limitations for such claims. The plaintiff with a wrongful death claim has two years from the date of the death in question to take legal action for wrongful death. This may seem like a lot of time, but the reality is that building a solid wrongful death case takes time and effort, and the full effects of the death in question may not be fully calculable. The sooner you work with an experienced California wrongful death attorney, the sooner you can start building your claim.
How Much Can You Sue for Wrongful Death in Sacramento, CA?
Different types of damages repay different aspects of a wrongful death case. For example, some damages repay the estate for lost valuation on assets, investments, and retirement funds, as well as lost income the deceased would have earned in the future, had he or she survived. Damages in a wrongful death claim may also include the medical expenses and pain and suffering related to the deceased’s final injury or illness. A qualified Sacramento wrongful death lawyer can help a wrongful death claimant understand the damages available in a claim and what to expect from pursuing a wrongful death claim in California.
It’s also important to remember that in some wrongful death cases, damages are paid to the estate of the deceased, and separate damages are awarded to the surviving family of the deceased. If the deceased had any type of estate plan, this would help to inform the surviving family of the assets and property their loved one owned as well as their wishes for distributing it. The estate will use proceeds from the wrongful death claim to settle the estate’s debts, and then the remainder will become part of the estate to be distributed with the rest of the estate’s contents. If the deceased had no estate plan or will, the intestate succession process will begin according to California state law once the wrongful death case concludes.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Every state has unique laws concerning wrongful death lawsuits, the time limits for filing them, and who may file them. In California, a deceased person’s surviving spouse, partner, or children have the first right to file a wrongful death claim unless the deceased individual’s estate or living will explicitly states otherwise and indicates an executor or representative. If the deceased has no surviving kin, then a personal representative of the deceased’s estate may pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased.
Anyone who believes they have a claim on the estate of a deceased individual or grounds for a wrongful death claim must provide proof that the death resulted in economic harm or damage of some kind. For example, a deceased person’s former spouse may have depended on the deceased for child support payments or alimony. They may also prove they were financially dependent on the deceased person to have grounds for a wrongful death claim.
Common Causes Of Wrongful Deaths in Sacramento, CA
Accidental deaths happen all the time all over the world. A wrongful death occurs when a death happens due to negligence. Some of the most common causes of wrongful death claims in California include:
- Intentional torts, such as assault and vehicular homicide. When an individual intentionally causes physical harm to a victim and the victim dies, this is homicide regardless of whether the offender intended to kill the victim. Intent to harm, motive, and other factors may come into play against the defendant, and they will face criminal prosecution in tandem with civil action from the victim’s family via a wrongful death claim.
- Motor vehicle accidents. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States. If a driver causes a fatal car accident, they may face liability for a wrongful death claim from the victim’s family. Depending on the nature of the car accident and the number of vehicles involved, more than one party can bear liability for a wrongful death from a car accident. If a driver causes a fatal accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will likely face criminal prosecution from the state of California as well as civil action from the victim’s family.
- Product liability. Manufacturers of consumer products must design their products safely and ensure they perform as intended. They must also advertise their products accurately and include reasonable instructions for the intended use of the product. When a company fails in any of these responsibilities and a consumer dies from a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, the company could absorb liability for a wrongful death claim from the victim’s family.
- Negligent security. Property owners, security companies, and other parties responsible for the safety of others in specific locations must take these duties seriously. If negligent security leads to an individual suffering a fatal slip and fall or being killed by a third party who commits an intentional tort on the premises, the party responsible for the security of the premises may share liability for the wrongful death.
- Medical malpractice. Medical professionals must meet the appropriate standard of care for every patient they treat. If a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other medical practitioner makes a serious mistake in the treatment of a patient, that patient could sustain extreme or fatal medical harm. If a loved one has died after a medical procedure or due to a long-term medical condition for which they were treated, the family should consider whether their loved one received an appropriate level of care and whether the death was avoidable.
- Premises liability. Property owners must ensure their properties are safe for lawful visitors. If a property owner knows of a safety hazard on their premises but does nothing to fix it or warn guests about it, someone may suffer a fatal injury. A wrongful death claim, in this case, would hinge on proving the property owner failed in their duty of care to maintain reasonably safe premises.
Essentially, any time a death occurs due to the negligent or intentionally harmful actions of another party, there are grounds for a wrongful death claim. Every state has unique laws pertaining to wrongful death claims, including who may file them, the damages available, and qualifying to receive damages.
What to Expect from a California Wrongful Death Case
Under the law, survivors are entitled to receive money from the person, persons, or companies responsible for a loved one’s wrongful death. This is money to pay medical bills and burial expenses, money that replaces what the deceased would have earned through the years, and money to compensate spouses and other family members for the loss of companionship.
Whoever files the wrongful death claim will act as the personal representative of the deceased. If the deceased had a will or estate plan, the representative must refer to this during the initial stages of probate, and it may also be necessary to refer to this document during the wrongful death case. For example, an estate plan could include a living will and the decedent’s instructions for final medical treatment, funeral, and burial. All of the associated costs of these considerations could become damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death cases can be complex, as there are many areas of calculation involved and often, our firm works with vocational, medical and life experts to ensure the optimal result for our clients. After decades of experience handling these cases, our Sacramento wrongful death attorneys know what to reasonably expect for our clients, and such, know when a case may require resolution in a courtroom. Our wrongful death attorneys in Sacramento have the experience and the resources to get our clients the results they deserve.
Free Consultation with a Sacramento Wrongful Death Attorney
Proving Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims in California
While compensation cannot bring your loved one back, it can help you to tie up loose ends. You could set money aside for children’s ongoing care and future college ambitions. Maybe there are medical bills to take care of or other debts that someone else in the family co-signed on and is now on the hook for. Funeral expenses can also get covered in a successful California wrongful death case.
However, to get these benefits, the family members must bring a wrongful death action and find proof. Working with an attorney can help you pinpoint the information you need. Experienced attorneys at Kreeger Law Firm may also help you spot discrepancies you might not have otherwise noticed.
How Do You Prove a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
This refers to a wrongful death case that qualifies under California’s guidelines. To qualify, the act of negligence typically must meet four requirements:
- The accused party owed the victim(s) a certain duty of care.
- The accused party breached this duty of care.
- The breach of care resulted in injuries that led to the death.
- The death of the loved one resulted in losses for the claimants.
To prove the accused party is responsible for the wrongful death, it becomes necessary to prove each requirement. One feeds right into the next, so this creates a process for claimants to follow.
Duty of Care
When people or organizations provide a product or service to an individual, they establish duty of care. In these instances, the party had a legal responsibility to help ensure no harm came to your loved one. There are several examples of this. The most common one that comes to mind is in a medical setting where health providers have a duty to help patients get well.
However, there are other instances of duty of care that people may not immediately think of, such as when purchasing a vehicle. The manufacturers have a responsibility to create a product that provides transportation without putting people at risk.
Breach of Duty
As the phrase implies, this occurs when responsible parties fail to fulfill their duties. Returning to the examples provided above, health care providers may have declined to see a person despite the family’s insistence that the individual was in need of immediate care.
For examples of car manufacturers breaching this duty, look no further than recalls and the incidents that lead to them. Companies often fail to spend enough time designing and testing vehicles in an effort to meet release deadlines. This can lead to safety issues such as malfunctioning seatbelts or failed brakes.
Cause of Death
For this step, claimants have to connect the dots between the breach of duty and the loss of their loved ones. In the health care example, the hospital’s failure to realize the family member was in need of urgent care led to the person’s death. However, the medical professionals may claim that once they examined the patient, it turned out there was nothing they could have done at the time.
Using the vehicle example, if brakes failed and drivers across the country kept running red lights due to an inability to stop, this could cost them not just their lives but that of other drivers, passengers, cyclists and even pedestrians. All of these incidents could get heaped at the manufacturer’s feet if experts prove brake failure was the reason for the accidents.
Losses for Claimants
The death of any family member can lead to losses for a family. The first come from expenses family members need to pay to wrap up the final affairs. Next, there is the loss of income the person brought to the family. The more of a provider role the person held, the more important this is.
However, even losing stay-at-home family members can lead to high costs. For instance, if the spouse lost was responsible for childcare, the widower or widow, in addition to grieving, may now need to pay up to $9,600 in daycare costs per child per year.
Are You Ready To File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
It is no easy decision to bring a wrongful death action against a person or organization. However, without doing so, you may not get the help you need to move forward. Many people and organizations try to escape liabilities whenever they can and rarely volunteer the full market value of a case — if they volunteer anything at all.
The attorneys at Kreeger Law Firm can conduct a thorough review of your case to determine how much it’s worth. We can then walk you through the process of proving wrongful death and preparing your case for settlement or trial. To get started, give us a call at 916-782-8400.
FAQs About California Wrongful Death Laws
What does California consider wrongful death?
A wrongful death case presents itself in California when someone dies as a result of someone else’s actions, particularly intentional misconduct or negligence. There are many instances that can cause this to happen. Here are a few common examples:
- Work accident due to improper gear from employer
- Death following the use of a faulty product
- Illness and death following a misdiagnosis
- Car crash resulting from someone else’s speeding and drunk driving
What is a survival action?
When deciding how to respond to a wrongful death incident, family members have two options to consider: wrongful death action and survival death action. Survival action becomes available to family members whose loved ones did not pass away immediately. An instance of this is when someone suffers injuries in a car crash and begins to recover but ultimately succumbs to their injuries.
Generally speaking, family members bringing a survival action are not able to recover compensation for pain and suffering. Elder abuse is the only current exception. However, the family may recover punitive damages as well as money to replace the economic impact of losing their loved ones.
How much time do we have to decide if we intend to bring a wrongful death action?
The general range is six months to two years, but exactly where you fall within this limit depends on the specifics of your case. Generally speaking, family members have two years to bring a wrongful death action.
The time limit for survival actions may range from six months to two years from either when the death occurred or when economic damages began to accrue. Of these two periods, lawmakers allow family members to choose the latter.
It is a wise person who takes some time to consider their options. However, it is also important not to spend too much time deliberating. The sooner you bring an action, the fresher the evidence. The further you get from when the incident occurred, the more likely it is for witnesses to forget key details or for documents to get misplaced.
Who can bring a wrongful death action?
Not all survivors can bring a wrongful death case. California accepts actions from a spouse or children. If the person had no children but was married, the parents also get the right to bring a case. In instances where the person has no spouse, no children and no surviving parents, brothers and sisters gain the right to take action. If a minor is the victim of a wrongful death incident, the parents can take action.
Who can bring a wrongful death action can become extremely complicated, especially if multiple family members want to act. Note that survivors cannot file multiple cases, but each person might be able to retain separate attorneys.
There might also be instances where some family members decide they do not want to get involved in the case. They have the right to opt out but must typically sign their rights away in these instances.
What if my family member played a role in his or her death?
California does not only award absolute fault to one party or the other. Instead, it also considers the role each party may have played in the death. It then awards compensation based on the percentage of fault.
For instance, a doctor might prescribe the wrong medication, but the patient also took more than the recommended dosage. In the eyes of the court, the person might have lived if the doctor prescribed the right medication but also if they had taken the correct dosage.
Say, in this case, the court decides that the deceased patient should take 40% of the blame for their actions. The court then awards the family $2 million. The family would receive $1,200,000.
How much money will my family receive?
An attorney can look at the details of your case and make an educated guess. However, the final figure is up to the court after hearing both sides of the case. When it comes to economic damages, courts take a very realistic approach. They determine the financial contributions the individual would have made. This includes their income minus the amount of money they spent on their own expenses. Because of this, the deceased’s spending habits might play a big role in the final figure.
If the family is also entitled to pain and suffering or punitive damages, the amount awarded varies. The greater the negligence and the more heinous the circumstances surrounding the death, the higher this figure tends to be.
How do families divide compensation?
How money gets divided depends on how the case was resolved. If the responsible parties decide to settle, families get to decide how to split the money. Ideally, the interests of dependents come first as they are the most affected. Using trusts is one of the many ways families try to protect the younger members of the family.
If the case goes to trial, the court decides who gets what. There are two main factors the jury keeps in mind. The first is how financially dependent the person is. Consider, for instance, the difference between a stay-at-home wife and an adult child who works. The second is how close the deceased and the beneficiary were before the incident.
Do I need a Wrongful Death attorney in Sacramento, CA?
The answer to this question depends on your definition of need. Can you pursue a wrongful or survival action without an attorney? Yes, it is possible to do so. However, courts advise against this. People often end up leaving money on the table because they are unaware of the full extent of their rights or families begin to fight about who gets to participate in the case and how.
An attorney can help to resolve many of these California wrongful death issues. Contact Kreeger Law Firm about representation.