Wrongful Deaths: 6 Ways to Legally Protect Your Rights

Ways to Legally Protect Your Rights

Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially when their death is due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. In such cases, pursuing a wrongful death claim can seek justice and alleviate the financial burden left behind.

These claims, which fall under personal injury law, encompass various scenarios ranging from car accidents to medical malpractice. If you believe your loved one’s death resulted from someone else’s actions, here are six ways to legally protect your rights.

1. Seek Legal Representation

The first step in protecting your rights in a wrongful death case is to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney. A lawyer specializing in these cases will have the knowledge and resources to navigate the legal system and fight for your rights. The most common scenario for wrongful death claims is when a person or entity’s negligence causes the untimely death of another. 

Your attorney will initiate legal action by filing a lawsuit against the responsible party, building a strong case to prove negligence, and seeking compensation for damages. With the help of a wrongful death lawyer in San Diego, California, you can secure the justice and financial support you and your family deserve. It starts with scheduling a consultation to discuss the details of your case and determine the best course of action.

2. Determine Eligibility for a Wrongful Death Claim

In California, not anyone can file a wrongful death claim. The state has specific laws outlining who can bring such an action to court. Primarily, the right to file a wrongful death claim lies with the deceased person’s surviving family members.

This includes the deceased’s spouse, domestic partner, and children. If the deceased has no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, the right to file a claim may extend to anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” This generally means the deceased’s parents or siblings.

Beneath these primary and secondary groups, other individuals may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim if they can show they were financially dependent on the deceased. These individuals might include a putative spouse (a person who believed in good faith that they were married to the deceased), stepchildren, or parents. However, proving financial dependence can be a complex process requiring substantial evidence.

3. Understand the Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a set time frame for you to bring a wrongful death claim. In California, this timeframe is typically two years from the deceased person’s death date. However, there are exceptions to this rule depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations may be different.

Understanding and adhering to this time limit is crucial, as missing it could result in your case being dismissed. For instance, if you file your claim after the statute of limitations expires, the court will likely reject it. An experienced attorney can help you understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case and ensure all necessary deadlines are met.

4. Gather and Preserve Evidence

To successfully prove negligence in a wrongful death claim, you must have sufficient evidence to support your case. This evidence may include:

  • Medical records and reports
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Photos or videos of the accident scene
  • Expert testimony from medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists

It is vital to gather this evidence as soon as possible after the incident while it is still fresh and readily available. These pieces of evidence can be instrumental in challenging the defense’s claims and proving your case in court. Any delay in obtaining evidence can weaken your case and hinder your chances of receiving fair compensation.

5. Understand the Types of Damages Available

In a wrongful death claim, the awarded damages seek to compensate surviving family members for their loss and offer financial support to help them navigate the aftermath of their loved one’s passing. Understanding the damages available is crucial to ensuring you receive fair compensation. The damages typically fall into two categories: economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

These are tangible, quantifiable losses that the family incurs due to the wrongful death. They include:

  • Medical Expenses: Costs incurred for medical treatment of the deceased from injury time until death.
  • Funeral and Burial Costs: Expenses related to the deceased’s funeral service, burial, or cremation.
  • Loss of Financial Support: The estimated financial contributions the deceased would have provided the family throughout their lifetime, including salary, benefits, and pension.
  • Loss of Services: The value of household services the deceased would have rendered, such as childcare, housekeeping, and maintenance.
  • Loss of Inheritance: The value of assets and estate that would have accumulated and been passed down if the deceased had lived.

Non-Economic Damages

These are more subjective and cover the intangible effects of the loss. They include:

  • Loss of Companionship: Compensation for the emotional distress and loss of love, care, companionship, and guidance provided by the deceased.
  • Pain and Suffering: The mental anguish and suffering experienced by the surviving family members due to the wrongful death.

6. Be Prepared for a Legal Battle

Wrongful death claims can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. The opposing party will likely fight against your claim, making it crucial to have strong legal representation. Your attorney will handle all aspects of the case, from gathering evidence to negotiating with insurance companies and arguing in court if necessary.

Being patient and prepared for a potentially lengthy legal battle is essential. These cases can take time to resolve. Some may even go to trial, which can further prolong the process. However, with the help of a skilled and experienced attorney, you can navigate through this challenging time and focus on healing while your case is being resolved.

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence is a devastating experience that no amount of compensation can ever truly make up for. However, pursuing a wrongful death claim can help secure justice and provide much-needed financial support for the surviving family members.

So, if you ever face this situation, do not hesitate to contact an attorney for guidance and support. They can help you through the legal complexities and fight for your rights to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.

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