If your loved one dies because of another person or entity’s reckless, negligent, or intentional action, you may be entitled to receive wrongful death damages in California. Though you may be grieving, understand that you must take action within two years of the death of the deceased in order to bring a legal case for California wrongful death. Difference Between Punishment for Wrongful Death vs Criminal Homicide The wrongful death cause of action falls under the umbrella of personal injury lawsuits that you would file in civil court. Homicide is a cause of action brought by a prosecutor in criminal court. The difference in punishment between wrongful death and criminal homicide is that a wrongful death claim involves liability in terms of financial compensation. Criminal homicide involves jail, prison time, probation, or other sanctions. Wrongful Death Damages in California Determining California wrongful death damages can be difficult because some of the components do not involve expense numbers. There are two types of wrongful death damages available. Damages are defined in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions 3921 (CACI), which are forms used to explain specific laws to jurors who must apply them. The two categories of wrongful death damages are economic and non-economic damages. Economic Damages Financial compensation for expenses that can be reasonably quantified are economic damages. These are related to actual monetary costs that occur because of the death of the deceased. According to CACI 3921, these include: Financial support that the deceased would have contributed to the family; Loss of gifts or benefits that the family would have expected to receive from the deceased; The reasonable dollar value of household services that the decedent would have provided; and Burial and funeral expenses. Unreimbursed medical costs that were incurred due to the nature of the action that caused death are filed under a different claim called a “survival action,” which is brought by the estate of the deceased. Survival actions also address lawsuits that the deceased had the right to file prior to death. Non-Economic Damages Non-economic damages typically pertain to the mental and emotional aspects of loss, but under CACI, wrongful death damages do not include grief, sorrow, or pain and suffering. The jury may award wrongful death damages that they deem reasonable given the evidence provided. Things to take into considerations when determining non-economic damages include: Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; Spouse or partner’s loss of consortium (enjoyment of intimacy); and Loss of training and guidance. Proving non-economic wrongful death damages can be difficult without the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney. You will generally need witnesses and other evidence to show that love, companionship, and other elements of a healthy relationship existed. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California? California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members (or their personal representatives) to bring a lawsuit for wrongful death in state civil court: A surviving spouse; A domestic partner; Biological and adopted children; Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased), Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were at least 50% dependent on the deceased for their financial support; and Anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. This last group may include the deceased person’s parents, or siblings, depending on who is living at the time of death. In some cases, there may be additional dependents who may have the right to receive wrongful death damages. These may include: A “putative spouse” (someone who had a good faith but mistaken belief that they were in a lawful marriage with the deceased); Children of the decedent’s putative spouse; Parents of the deceased; and Legal guardians of the decedent. These individuals must be able to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased. Should You Hire a California Wrongful Death Attorney? In order to succeed on a wrongful death claim, you must have sufficient evidence to prove that the death was caused by the negligent actions of another person. It is important to have an experienced legal team to conduct investigations, gather evidence, and navigate the complex California legal system. The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart can also help you determine what your wrongful death case is worth so that you do not settle for less than what you deserve. With over 30 years of experience, Chuck Geerhart understands how to effectively and compassionately help you through this tough time by providing the legal support you need. Contact us for your free case consultation.Keep Reading
San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney
When you choose Chuck Geerhart, you're choosing to be represented by one of the finest trial lawyers in California. You're choosing personal attention from start to finish. And, you're choosing to never be passed off to a paralegal or junior lawyer.
- A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation.
As a British journalist, recently based in San Francisco and without medical insurance, things seemed pretty messy after I found myself in an airport shuttle, driven by a lunatic, who struck a parked cab. I had to go to hospital, who diagnosed a head injury – as, later, did a neurologist – but the shuttle company’s insurance company continually balked at paying the bills.
A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation. He was a great lawyer to have on my side, persistent in his battles with the insurance company, supportive of his client and a pleasure to work with, resolving the claim with the minimum of fuss.Susan
- Chuck made sure I was fairly compensated for this life altering injury.
I was working as an air traffic controller at SFO when a notoriously faulty elevator slammed to a stop between floors, throwing me against the wall and rupturing discs in my neck. I had to have major surgery on my neck. The City and the elevator maintenance company denied liability, until Chuck Geerhart obtained copies of all prior repair records which showed the elevator was continually resetting due to a power supply issue.
During the discovery phase of the case, to protect my privacy rights, he filed a motion with court to block a subpoena issued by the defense that sought to obtain my complete confidential employment file and complete health history in violation of the law. We ultimately settled the case for $1,000,000 after mediation.
I feel that Chuck did a great job making sure I was fairly compensated for this life-altering injury.Denise
- Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine.
I was fortunate to have been referred to Chuck Geerhart when I was dealing with a very painful and tragic case of abuse by religious leadership, which was stretched over five years.Frank
Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine. He was intelligent and strategic in his approach, always very communicative; an attentive ear, fearless and confident support for someone who was very confused and seeking answers where there were only walls. He always involved me in the process, sharing crucial information with me and allowing me the time and space to decide and move forward. He treated me like a partner, which helped me recover the power that was taken away from me.
At the same time he provided the professional expertise which I needed in order to win the case. The process of winning this case was as empowering as the actual outcome. It was a healing experience in itself. I am very happy with the support and guidance I got from Chuck as well as with the monetary result from such a serious injury. It has truly helped me move on in a good way.
Meet Chuck Geerhart
Chuck Geerhart was admitted to the California bar in 1989, and is a graduate of Cornell University and the UCLA Law School. He has tried 16 cases to jury verdict. He has also sat as a juror in three cases in San Francisco County. Chuck is a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (SFTLA), and will be SFTLA President in 2022. Chuck is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation-only organization of premier trial lawyers who have tried at least 10 jury cases to verdict.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What should I do if I am injured because of someone else's fault?
Q. Should I give a statement to the other party's insurance carrier?
Q. What is a contingent fee agreement?
Q. Is it important that I seek prompt medical treatment?
Q. Is there a fee to speak with you about a case?
Q. Should I authorize the release of my medical records to an insurance company?
From the Blog
If you or someone you love was injured in a personal injury accident caused by another party’s negligence, you might be searching for a lawyer. When you search online, you may enter the search term, “personal injury lawyer near me.” However, do you really need to hire a lawyer that is close to where you live? The answer is not as black and white as you may assume. While you probably shouldn’t hire an attorney that is hundreds of miles away, you shouldn’t necessarily hire the closest option either. Deciding When You Need an Attorney The first thing to consider is whether you need an attorney or not. If your personal injury accident happened in California, your case would be subject to California law. California is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can collect a portion of your damages even if you are partially at fault in the accident. In fact, you can collect some compensation even if you are primarily at fault. For example, if you are determined to be 25% at fault, you will receive 75% of your damages. If you are found to be 75% at fault, you could collect up to 25% in damages. Why is this important? With pure comparative negligence, the defendants will be doing their best to place the maximum blame on you. Their goal is to pay the least amount of money possible. That means you need a qualified California personal injury attorney on your side. You should choose an attorney who can protect your rights and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Choose a Qualified Attorney One of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring a personal injury lawyer is hiring the attorney that is closest to their home. Just because they are a five- or ten-minute drive doesn’t make them the most qualified to handle your case. If you have a medical malpractice claim, you need an attorney specializing in these types of cases who has the experience necessary to take your case to trial. The personal injury law firm closest to you may primarily handle car accident cases. Choose an Attorney You Feel Comfortable With Don’t choose an attorney simply because they are the closest option. What if you don’t like their personality or you don’t feel completely comfortable with them? Finding the right attorney whom you trust and feel comfortable with is crucial. You will be working closely with this person. If you don’t like them, how will they come across to a jury if the case goes to trial? You want an attorney who is relatable and who will make a good impression on a jury. By only searching attorneys close to you, you could miss out on the right lawyer for your case. Choosing an Attorney with the Necessary Financial Resources Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. That means they don’t get paid unless they recover compensation in your case. The usual fee agreement is a percentage of your overall settlement. If your case goes to trial, the attorney needs to handle all the legal costs and fees to present a strong case. If the attorneys near you won’t have the financial means to take on your case, or perhaps they are busy, they may need to transfer your case to another law firm anyway. Rather than start all over with a new lawyer, why not find the right one for you from the start? Hiring the San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyers at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart If you need a personal injury lawyer to help you, look no further than the San Francisco personal injury lawyers at the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart. We have years of experience helping injured victims like you. We aren’t afraid to stand up to big corporations. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no risk to meet with us. We can help you decide what the best course of action is for your particular case. Contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart today to learn more about how we can help you fight for the compensation you are owed.Keep Reading