Personal Injury Law Blog

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit: What to Expect

Losing a loved one is a heart-wrenching experience—and, if you’ve recently experienced this type of loss, you have our deepest sympathies. If this death has occured because of someone else’s negligence, this can make it even more difficult for you to mourn as you struggle with how this death didn’t need to happen or are anxious about financial concerns. To add to the challenges, the other party’s insurance company will attempt to provide you with a lowballed settlement, protecting their own interests instead of yours.

If you’re considering whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit, this blog post may help. If you’re ready for a free consultation with a Los Angeles wrongful death attorney, please contact us online or call (844) 821-5271. Joshua Glotzer is highly experienced in complex wrongful death cases.

First Step: Consultation

The process typically starts with a consultation with an attorney who practices in the state. During this appointment, you can share the specifics of what took place. This can be an emotional experience, but a compassionate attorney will allow you to take a breather when you need one. 

During the consultation, the attorney can let you know if the tragedy you experienced fits within the wrongful death statutes of the state, and here’s one way to look at it. A wrongful death claim can be applicable if the victim—had he or she survived—would have had a valid claim for a personal injury lawsuit. For example, wrongful death suits can be filed when medical malpractice is involved or a fatal accident takes place. 

At the consultation, the attorney would discuss who can file a wrongful death claim and would likely also share what would need to be proven to win a lawsuit.

Two extra considerations:

  • Typically, if your loved one suffered a fatal injury at work, the case must be handled through worker’s compensation.
  • Intentional killings can fall within wrongful death cases, such as when O.J. Simpson was sued by the families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. 

Statute of Limitations 

As part of the process, the attorney will discuss statutes of limitations and how they would apply to your case. This is the length of time that a family member or the loved one’s estate would have to file a wrongful death claim. In California, that would be two years from the death of the loved one. After the statute of limitation expires, the family and estate may lose their right to file a claim. The situation is different if medical malpractice is involved. The timeframe then becomes three years from the injury or “one year after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first.”

Next Steps: Investigation

If you decide to go ahead with the lawsuit, the lawyer who takes your case would then conduct an investigation, which could include reviewing reports, interviewing witnesses, and otherwise gathering information that would help to prove the negligence or fault of the plaintiff.

The wrongful death attorney, using the negligence example, would need to:

  • Demonstrate that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care; this term means that the defendant should have used the amount of caution and attention that a reasonable person would under the circumstances
  • Provide sufficient evidence that the duty of care standard was not met and in fact directly caused the wrongful death
  • Show how the damages listed in the wrongful death claim are directly connected to the breach in duty of care

Settlement Versus Lawsuit

A wrongful death claim can be negotiated and settled out of court or can go into the courtroom. Although each case is unique, many wrongful death claims are in fact settled out of court in California. In our state, insurance companies are given 40 days to respond to a wrongful death communication, although they can receive an extension if more time is needed for them to investigate the situation. If a fair settlement is not successfully negotiated, then you and your attorney may decide to file a lawsuit and seek justice in court. 

Depending on the specifics of your case, your Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can seek two types of damages: economic and non-economic. This is true whether the case is settled or goes to court.

Economic ones may be easier to precisely define, and they include funeral and burial expenses; medical expenses associated with the loved one’s final illness or injury; lost wages, which includes a reasonable estimate of income that could have been earned in the future if the wrongful death had not taken place.

Non-economic damages, meanwhile, can include loss of affection/loss of consortium between a couple; the loss of services that occur when that person can no longer contribute to the work of the household; and loss of training and advice, the guidance a child would have otherwise received.

In the state of California, punitive damages cannot be awarded for a wrongful death. In order to pursue the full range of economic and non-economic damages, the attorney may also file what’s called a survival action.

When a court is deciding what damages to award, the formula can be complex. In general, though, considerations include the relationship between the deceased person and the one who filed the lawsuit; the life expectancy of the person who died; and the “value” of services that the loved one had provided.

Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney at Glotzer & Leib, LLP

If you’ve suffered through the pain of a loved one’s wrongful death, the wrongful death lawyers at our law firm will assess the circumstances with great care to determine whether negligence occurred, and caused the death and resulting damages to occur. 

We tirelessly advocate for each and every one of our clients to help you receive the compensation you deserve, ensuring that your rights are protected and preserved throughout the entire process. To get started, please request a free consultation online or call (844) 821-5271.

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