“Wrongful death” is an unforeseen passing of a loved one who would not have died but for the negligence or intentional lousy conduct of another person or persons. (Source – Wikipedia). Although it is treated differently under the statutes of the state you reside in, general negligence principles and tort law remain the underpinnings of wrongful death cases. The suffering from losing someone can cloud your judgment.
Because of this, you may delay in seeking legal help or choose the wrong law firm to handle your case. We interviewed a famous public figure, Los Angeles wrongful death trial lawyer Michael Ehline of Ehline Law, to help us get this article right. After all, a lawyer has far more experience, authority, and trust than a Forbes writer. Right?
Anyone who has ever dealt with a wrongful death knows that it is a traumatic event. And that the trauma of the experience can live on long after the moment ends. There have been many instances over the years where wrongful death has occurred either deliberately or accidentally. And regardless of the nature of wrongful death itself, one’s pain remains an event coming hand in hand among many trauma victims. Moreover, such circumstances may necessarily require both personal and legal attention.
It can be quite an overwhelming experience to navigate the process during the event and afterward. For this reason, it is frequently said that wrongful deaths are a trauma on top of trauma. For example, you remain behind, left dealing with the consequences of a wrongful death often manifests in more challenges before your just awards in court. And of course, there is also a lot to be said about the fact that a wrongful death often (if not always) leaves behind many twists and turns one navigates to achieve justice.
Understanding The Wrongful Death Legal Process.
So this is often precisely how, when, where, and why lawsuits act as a legal response to wrongful death. A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit that revolves around allowing for the deceased close ones to get some compensation for the circumstances that resulted in the death of their loved one(s). A wrongful death lawsuit is quite a traumatic experience to navigate, even for a decent attorney. So it helps to hire attorneys who specialize in wrongful death lawsuits on either side.
A wrongful death defendant will typically be appointed a civil negligence defense lawyer from his or her insurer. But a wrongful death victim must jump through hoops to find a Top-Gun plaintiff’s injury lawyer. And there is a system to navigate the process in the best possible way to ensure the best possible outcome of a tragic event. Only terrific lawyers understand the winning methods, of course.
Who Pays For My Wrongful Death Loss?
Who pays for a wrongful death depends on who is found legally liable. Tort law determines this. There are two types of torts, intentional torts like a battery (like hitting someone in the face). And there are negligent torts like “ordinary negligence.” Wrongful death laws stem from the common negligence species of or tort law. However, an intentional tort can still cause wrongful death.
The main difference in how the case gets handled by the judge is that punitive damages and liability issues are often easier to prove in the intentional killing. Oh, and you can’t just get punitive damages. There is a higher burden of proof.
Before we determine who pays up, let’s deal with whether or not this is a criminal thing. No. Wrongful death is a civil case brought in a civil court. Sure, a murderer can be sued in civil court for wrongful death, but the criminal court is not the proper forum for that. In a criminal case, the state and NOT you are the victim. And the punishment is penalties to the government.
There are no “damages” available except perhaps some petty form of civil restitution. You can’t go after what you are truly owed in a criminal court. And other issues come up, like was the killer carrying out a company policy or on the clock? If he or she was, it raises serious problems of what lawyers call “vicarious liability.”
Because of this, there is the issue of who pays for wrongful death. While some individuals do have life insurance cover, it is a common occurrence that life insurance does not feel the income gap that is left behind when an individual dies of wrongful death. Couple this because some individuals are physically and mentally unable to go to work for a while after a loved one’s death due to their grieving process. The question of who pays in a wrongful death lawsuit becomes even more critical.
Ultimately, an immediate relative of the deceased can sue for wrongful death. The individual who finally pays in the term of wrongful death is someone who, under the burden of proof, is found to be guilty of the run for death that has occurred. There needs to be proof, and it needs to be solid proof.
Why Does This Remain So Important?
Ultimately, this is incredibly important because the results of a wrongful death lawsuit, including an unlawful death sentence, can and often significantly impact the deceased’s survivors. Experts recommend that a surviving family member have a wrongful death attorney to assist them with their insurance or court claims. Many people are confused and grieving after someone they loved passes away. But the victims will have commonly asked questions, like, “where can I find the best wrongful death attorney?”
This is a tremendously vital question to ask. Why? Simple, wrongful death law is a complex, time consuming evidentiary nightmare for undertrained lawyers. For example, we have to remember the deceased individual may have been the primary breadwinner for the family. Now, the survivors may leave behind other financial gaps. And these gaps can force an early bankruptcy while a death claim enters through litigation. Calculating and proving what the household would have lost is not something a layperson can do. It is incredibly taxing and expensive to get it right.
Below, I will discuss more the types of damages available in a typical California wrongful death case. Suffice it to say that hiring the right lawyer can ultimately significantly impact the quality of life that the family and those close to the individual can maintain after their loved one’s death. Hiring the right economists and accident reconstruction experts is another reason why having the right attorney in one’s corner when filing a wrongful death lawsuit is tremendously instrumental. Insurance companies know the lawyers who will settle for peanuts and the ones who won’t
What Are 5 Great Tips For Hiring The Right Wrongful Death Attorneys?
Retaining a wrongful death lawyer’s services entails a fact-finding process, so you don’t get stuck with a large firm that lets your file sit in a corner. Every wrongful death victim’s goal should be finding a wrongful death lawyer who offers small firm service with tremendous results. Below are a few tips to help you find the right lawyer near you.
- Find a lawyer with locations nearby.
- Check the corporate and business name to ensure the firm’s namesake is a California lawyer or another state just here making money using unknown, untested lawyers and his radio jingles to drum up business.
- Check to make sure the lawyers have not been subject to State Bar Discipline, and if so, why?
- Check the case results of your lawyer.
- Make the lawyer earn your trust. You are the victim. Make sure that the lawyer is enthusiastic, committed, and prompt. These are the trust-building factors in the wrongful death lawyer hiring process.
What Types of Compensation Can Wrongful Death Survivors Recuperate?
In tort law, compensation is based upon what they call damages. Damages and compensation are words tort lawyers use interchangeably. Injuries are broken down into categories called:
- General Damages.
- Special Damages.
- Punitive Damages.
General damages are non-economic, intangible damages. Let me explain. These are types of harm like grieving, emotional distress. True, these can develop into physical manifestations like hypertension. But no, these damages are for things like loss of sex, love, comfort, or even no longer being able to do yard work or take out the trash. You enjoyed those things your spouse or loved one did for you. The love and devotion of the decedent assisted the family, and it drew you closer together.
True, you will now have to hire help or do more work. But that is a tangible loss covered below under “special damages.” To recap, general damages are to protect “Pain and Suffering” caused by losing a loved one. If they manifest themselves into physical ailments, then we look at special damages discussed below.
Special damages are classified as compensation for past, present, and future economic losses. Although special damages are primarily to pay things back like medical bills, ambulance rides to the hospital, or lost work, they are significant and not always so easy producing a billing record.
- Where Can I See An Example of Past, Present, and Future Economic Losses?
Financially, after losing a loved one, you will have lost past wages and earnings that had contributed to the household.
- Let’s say you are a stay at home mom with kids, for example.
- Or let’s say you are a wealthy tycoon who loses his stay at home wife/mom. (Believe it or not, there is a financial loss to him, not just emotional upset).
Each of these two victims, despite their different status levels, has a special damages case here. The wife can seek compensation for past, present, and future anticipated income. Think about it, even if she got divorced, she’d still get half, right? What if someone stole her man’s life AND the marriage was good? She should get all of it.
The husband now no longer has his wife to rear the children while he works. Since his promise to her as his dying wish that he and he alone will raise their precious children, he must quit his career to reduce his earning capacity. Because caring for offspring is what an honorable man does. Wrongful death compensation is how we make up the shortfall as economic losses.
What Are Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are used more as a part of the intentional torts component of tort law. Punishment damages are designed to “punish” someone. Let’s contrast this with general and special damages. Special and general damages are intended to make the wrongful death defendant pay the wrongful death victims money to “compensate” them for their loss. So what’s the difference? What do you mean by punishment? Good question.
First off, negligence implies a duty to conform to a particular type of responsibility. For example, in society, we all universally agree it is unacceptable to stare at a cell phone while driving and run a pedestrian over, right? Ok. So negligence law is a social contract to do or not do something that can indirectly, but for your want of attention, harm, or slay another person.
- Contrasting Punishment Damages.
The term punitive is an ancient term. And the punishment remains the primary focus at issue in criminal cases of murder. So no, it’s not a place victims receive personal injury damages. Instead, a person is convicted of a homicide and is liable civilly as a matter of res judicata. And this is because an intentional or reckless act took place.
Another example would be that it remains unacceptable to punch someone in the face. Well, unless you are defending yourself, you must remain civil. If not, you will find yourself in civil court, sued for punitive damages. So in both a criminal and civil case, you can be punished for your heinous acts.
In conclusion, picking the right wrongful death attorney is no walk in the park. Wrongful death remains among the most painful experiences a person can suffer. Moreover, that negligent act should not have happened. And now, you are emotional, angry, and not objective. Moreover, navigating the court system is no easy task, even for an average lawyer. And most of all, finding a superior wrongful death lawyer means doing some research. Hiring the right negligence attorney near you and the courts is vital to getting the most money so you can survive.