Wrongful death lawyers perform multiple tasks to ensure that the cases they handle proceed smoothly. Generally, their responsibilities cover nearly everything from start to finish, taking a significant portion of the burden from the decedent’s surviving family members or dependents. Should you decide to work with one, here is a closer look at what wrongful death lawyers do.
File the Lawsuit
The legal right to pursue a wrongful death claim lies with those greatly affected by the sudden loss, such as the deceased’s survivors or dependents. In the state of California, according to California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) §377.60, this may also include spouses, domestic partners, parents, siblings, and other relatives who relied on the decedent for support. However, they may find it difficult to proceed with litigation on their own.
When you hire a wrongful death lawyer, they can file the lawsuit on your behalf. They should already know the necessary procedures and how to navigate the legal system, allowing them to proceed quickly and without errors. The required paperwork can be confusing for those who are unfamiliar with wrongful death cases, and even a single oversight can lead to an unsuccessful claim.
A wrongful death lawyer can also keep track of crucial deadlines and inform the client of the lawsuit’s progression. California’s statute of limitations on wrongful deaths, which is outlined in CCP §335.1, allows only two years from the date of death to seek financial recovery. When this deadline lapses, survivors or dependents can no longer seek compensation, even if they have a strong basis for the claim.
Build a Strong Case
The most important responsibility of a wrongful death lawyer is to bolster your claim for recovery or compensation. To do this, they must establish the other party’s clear-cut liability for the incident that led to the decedent’s death. The court will only award damages if survivors or dependents can prove such a fact.
Wrongful death is similar to personal injury in terms of proving liability. However, you must also show that the other party’s actions caused the victim’s demise. Negligence is the oft-used underlying legal theory in determining who is liable, especially in accidents and medical malpractice cases. Sometimes, liability may also stem from one’s intentional wrong, as in murder cases. Proving the link between the liable party’s actions and cause of death is fact-specific and requires expertise and extensive knowledge.
However, wrongful death also possesses certain unique aspects to make them actionable. A claimant must prove that death occurred—otherwise, the claim will not stand, even if the victim has catastrophic injuries. Since the deceased cannot bring forth a lawsuit, only those with a close relationship to the dead may do so. They must also demonstrate that the decedent’s absence has a significant impact on their life, such as loss of financial stability or support.
Every state has its own statutes on wrongful death, including California. The enacted state law limits interpretation by the courts, and failure to meet the requirements is grounds for dismissal. A wrongful death attorney should know which state-imposed rules apply to your situation.
Estimate the Right Amount of Damages
In wrongful death lawsuits, the most complex and disputed issue is almost always the amount of the compensation. There is no written rule regarding such matters, so it typically depends on the circumstances of the case.
Many surviving family members and dependents do not realize that they deserve more than they received during settlement—a common but costly mistake. A wrongful death lawyer can carefully review all factors to determine reasonable compensation for those affected by the decedent’s absence. For instance, if the person who died was the primary income earner, damages should include the deceased’s income history, salary increases, benefits, and life expectancy in evaluating the value of lost future earnings. A wrongful death lawyer should also consider the replacement value of the deceased’s non-economic contributions to the household, such as caregiving and housekeeping.
Surviving family members and dependents can also recover for pain and suffering, medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of companionship, relationship, or guidance. A wrongful death lawyer may also consider the decline in the survivor’s or dependent’s quality of life because of the sudden death.
Represent the Survivors and/or Dependents
As an appointed legal representative, a wrongful death lawyer should always have their client’s best interests in mind, offering sound counsel and the best available options. They can also attend collaborative meetings and negotiate a reasonable settlement offer on behalf of the survivors and/or dependents. If the lawsuit goes to trial, they can work to make a strong case—through careful investigation and taking advantage of the discovery process—to achieve a favorable outcome.
At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, our team of wrongful death lawyers can help you navigate the complicated legal process of pursuing a wrongful death claim. We will do all we can to ensure that survivors and dependents get relief from any financial troubles caused by a loved one’s sudden death.
To get started, contact us today at (800) 223-5115 for a free case evaluation.