Fresno Wrongful Death Attorneys
The sudden death of a loved one has a significant emotional and financial impact on families. When the death was caused by the fault or negligence of another individual or entity, the survivors may be able to bring a civil wrongful death lawsuit. Such a claim seeks monetary compensation for the survivors' loss such as lost income, benefits, medical and funeral costs and other damages. Wrongful death claims usually involve a variety of fatal accidents from car accidents or slip-and-fall accidents to complex product liability cases against major corporations. The defendant in a wrongful death case could be an individual, a corporation or even a governmental entity.
Protecting Your Rights
If you have lost a loved one as a result of someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, the experienced Fresno wrongful death attorneys at BISNAR CHASE are here to answer your questions and give you the counsel and support you need. We can help evaluate your case honestly and present you with a realistic and comprehensive case assessment. BISNAR CHASE has been representing Fresno residents since 1978 and we have a far reach of resources and understand local courts to represent you in the best manner possible. We understand the grief and emotional trauma bereaved families undergo and strongly recommend grief counseling to clients who have recently lost loved ones. If you would like to obtain more information about pursuing your rights in California, please contact us. We always provide free and confidential initial consultations to injured victims and their families.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Fresno?
According to California Civil Code Section 377.60, a wrongful death is defined as the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. A wrongful death claim must be filed by a representative on behalf of the survivors who have suffered and will continue to suffer financially and emotionally as a result of the decedent's death. Some of the parties who are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Fresno include:
- Immediate family members: Survivors such as spouses, putative spouses, children, adopted children, putative children can file a wrongful death claim.
- Domestic partners: The deceased person's domestic partner can also file a wrongful death claim.
- Other family members: If the decedent was unmarried, his or her parents can file a wrongful death claim. Other eligible family members include the decedent's surviving siblings, grandparents or children of deceased siblings.
- Dependents: Individuals who were financially dependent on the decedent at the time of his or her death can also file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death versus Murder
Wrongful death lawsuits are a civil action while murder or homicide charges are filed by a government prosecutor in the criminal court system. Civil lawsuits carry a different burden of proof. In a civil suit the standard, known as "preponderance of the evidence" is much lower than in criminal court where the defendant must be found guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." If convicted of murder, the defendant will be incarcerated or in some cases even face the death penalty. If found liable for the wrongful death of the decedent, the defendant will have to pay monetary damages to the survivors. So, filing a wrongful death claim is a means for family members to get a sense of justice and to make the defendants pay for their negligence or wrongdoing.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
The family of an individual who has passed away suddenly and unexpectedly is usually looking at a number of immediate financial consequences. They may have to pay ambulance and medical bills. They may have to pay thousands of dollars for the funeral and burial. If the decedent was a wage earner or sole breadwinner, they must deal with a significant loss of income and/or benefits such as health insurance. A wrongful death claim can seek monetary compensation for damages including:
- Medical expenses - hospital bills, cost of medication, surgeries, treatment, etc.
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income, including future income
- Loss of benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of household services
- Loss of love, community, attention, affection, moral support, companionship and guidance
Defendants in a Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed against a variety of individuals and entities. For example, if the death was caused by a drunk driver, the driver can be held liable. If the driver was on the job at the time, his or her employer can also be held liable. In a truck accident case where poor vehicle maintenance caused a fatal accident, the truck driver and the trucking firm can be held liable. If a dangerous roadway condition caused a fatal accident, the governmental agency responsible for maintaining that roadway can be held accountable.
If a defective auto or another faulty product caused the death, the manufacturer of the defective product can be held financially responsible. If a person is killed in a slip-trip-and-fall accident, the negligent property owner and/or manager could become defendants. Similarly, if a dangerous dog attacks and kills someone, the dog owner could be held liable.
When Should the Case Be Filed?
In California, just like personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a specific time period, which is otherwise known as a "statute of limitations." California law requires that a wrongful death claim be filed within two years of the date of the victim's death. If the case is not filed in civil court within two years, the family will most likely lose the right to file such a claim. In cases where the defendant is a government entity, a wrongful death claim must be filed within 180 days or six months of the incident (California Government Code Section 911.2).