San Francisco Wrongful Death Attorneys
Common causes of wrongful death cases include car and pedestrian accidents, and medical malpractice. Other death cases we have handled involved plane crashes. California law treats injury claims that cause a death very differently from non-fatal personal injury cases, with the recoverable damages set by a complex set of laws. In a non-fatal personal injury case, “pain and suffering” is often the biggest part of the value of the case. But when a car or other type of accident causes a death in California, there is no compensation for any pain and suffering the deceased person experienced. Instead, spouses, registered domestic partners, children, siblings, or parents can recover for the loss of their relationship with their loved one, and are also entitled to be compensated for financial losses caused by the death. If the person who died did not have a spouse, then children or parents, and/or brothers and sisters may be entitled to damages for wrongful death.
Unless the person making the claim witnessed the accident that caused the death, California law does not allow compensation for the emotional distress of learning of a loved one’s death. Specifically, wrongful death claims in California can include compensation for:
- “loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society and moral support”
- loss of financial losses, such as financial support, or income
- loss of services, such as the value of the time the deceased person spent doing household chores, and/or the value of advice or training the person provided
- medical and funeral expenses
California has a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. This limit runs from the date of the death, and the case must be settled or filed in court before it runs. For cases involving a public entity, such as a city, state, or county vehicle, there is a six-month claims period, so in these cases a proper claim must be promptly filed with the public entity.
Valuing Wrongful Death Cases
One of the most important things a wrongful death lawyer does is to determine the proper value of the case. It is no victory to get a $2 million settlement in a $3 million value case. Settlement values in these cases have increased dramatically in recent years, with the exception of medical malpractice cases, which are capped by law. In determining the value of a wrongful death case, questions will be asked about the relationship the claimant had with the deceased. This can make for some uncomfortable questions about marital and family relations. It is very important to have an attorney who will be sure that your rights are protected and that your privacy is not invaded unnecessarily. Our attorneys have more than two decades of experience in aggressively pursuing our clients’ personal injury and wrongful death cases, while protecting their rights. Researching the verdicts and settlements in cases with comparable victims is important, as well as analyzing the potential for jurors to be angry about what happened, the characteristics of the venue (what county where the case would be filed), etc.
If you or someone you know has a California wrongful death claim, call 1-415-541-0300 for a free consultation to speak to a California wrongful death lawyer in San Francisco at Callaway & Wolf.