A loved one’s death can be difficult to process. The loss can be especially painful to endure when the death occurred due to the actions of another party.
At the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, we know how devastating it can be to lose someone under these circumstances. That’s why we’ve made one of our primary goals helping the families of wrongful death victims recover.
If someone else’s actions caused your loved one’s death, a wrongful death claim can be a pathway to compensation. While the aftermath of your loved one’s passing can be difficult, you don’t have to navigate this process alone. Contact a wrongful death attorney in San Francisco today to discuss your options and see what you can do to recover.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Most people have heard the phrase “wrongful death,” but what exactly is it?
Essentially, a wrongful death claim is a type of legal claim you may bring on behalf of someone who has died as a result of someone else’s actions.
Specifically, California law permits certain loved ones to recover monetary damages when a person dies as a result of the wrongful act or neglect of another person. This also includes when someone dies because of a defective product.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death claims arise in a variety of circumstances. Some of the most common situations in which you may have a wrongful death claim include:
- Car accidents,
- Truck accidents,
- Pedestrian accidents,
- Murder or manslaughter,
- Medical malpractice,
- Defective or dangerous products,
- Mechanical failures, and
- Slip and fall accidents.
In short, any death that results from the negligence, gross negligence, or intentional act of another person may give rise to a wrongful death claim.
Of course, at its core, a wrongful death action is a type of legal claim. Thus, recognizing whether you have a potential claim may be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the law surrounding this topic.
Fortunately, however, a wrongful death lawyer in San Francisco can help you determine whether you have an actionable claim and how to proceed from there.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim Under California Law?
It is important to note that not just any loved one may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the deceased. In fact, California wrongful death law permits only certain categories of persons to bring a wrongful death action.
Parties who may bring a wrongful death action include the deceased’s surviving:
- Domestic partner,
- Children, and
- Issue, or descendants, of any children of the deceased who are no longer living.
For purposes of this wrongful death statute, “domestic partner” means any person who was in a registered domestic partnership established in accordance with the California family code at the time of the deceased’s death.
Additionally, in some cases, the law will permit the parents, guardians, or siblings to bring a wrongful death claim.
If you are uncertain as to whether you may be entitled to bring a wrongful death action under California law, contact a wrongful death attorney in San Francisco today to discuss the facts of your case in more detail.
Proving Wrongful Death
Again, a wrongful death claim exists where the wrongful act or neglect of a person or entity results in the death of another.
In some cases, proving a “wrongful act” can be relatively simple, such as with a criminal act where the at-fault party intended to commit the act. In other cases, however, proving wrongful death can be difficult and very fact-specific.
In most wrongful death cases, the party bringing the lawsuit must prove that the at-fault party acted negligently. However, proving negligence is more complicated than you might think.
To have a successful wrongful death negligence claim, you must be able to prove the following elements:
- The responsible party owed a legal duty to the deceased victim to act reasonably under the circumstances;
- That same party breached their legal duty of care;
- The at-fault party’s breach caused injuries to the victim that resulted in their death; and
- The death resulted in actual damages to you, the victim’s loved one.
Again, you must be able to prove all four elements to bring a successful claim. If any one element is not satisfied, the claim will fail. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that you have an experienced wrongful death attorney in San Francisco on your case who is familiar with the ins and outs of California wrongful death law.
What Constitutes a Breach of a Legal Duty?
Often, proving the existence of a legal duty and a subsequent breach can be the most difficult elements to prove in a wrongful death case. But an experienced California wrongful death attorney who is familiar with current case law can help you determine whether a legal duty and breach exist under the facts of your case.
Below are some examples of legal duties of care and how they could be breached:
- Product manufacturers have a legal duty to manufacture products that are safe for normal and intended use. If a company takes shortcuts that result in a defective or dangerous product, or fails to provide proper warnings to consumers about potential dangers, this may constitute a breach of their duty.
- Drivers have a legal duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner while operating a motor vehicle on the road. If a driver fails to follow traffic laws, this may constitute a breach.
- Medical professionals have a legal duty to provide a certain level of care in performing medical services. If a doctor or other medical professional makes a mistake or fails to provide a level of care that another similarly trained professional would have under the same or similar circumstances, this may constitute a breach.
If any person or entity breaches their duty of care and that breach results in the death of your loved one, you may have a legal claim for relief.
Of course, the facts and circumstances of a potential wrongful death claim will vary widely from case to case. Consider consulting with a California wrongful death attorney to discuss the facts of your case before determining whether and how to move forward.
Damages for Wrongful Death
Damages are an important element of a wrongful death claim.
Of course, no amount of money can undo the actions that resulted in the death of your loved one. However, damages in a wrongful death action can go a long way toward helping you recover and hold the responsible party accountable.
Damages that a wrongful death claimant may recover include compensation for:
- Loss of financial support of the deceased;
- Lost future income of the deceased;
- Loss of gifts or benefits that the claimant would have expected to receive from the deceased;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Loss of training and guidance of the deceased; and
- Loss of the deceased’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
At the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, we know how important this compensation can be to helping you move forward. That’s why we will do everything we can to help you maximize your recovery.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
One important thing to keep in mind is that the California wrongful death statute of limitations is two years.
This means that you have only two years from the date of your loved one’s passing to file your wrongful death lawsuit. Failure to file your claim within the two-year timeframe can result in losing your legal right to recovery altogether.
It may feel daunting and overwhelming to think about a lawsuit so soon after the death of your loved one. Nevertheless, it is important to begin taking action as soon as practicable, so you don’t waive any potential legal rights.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in San Francisco Today
If you are searching for a wrongful death attorney in San Francisco to help you recover after the loss of a family member, we want to help.
The legal landscape surrounding California wrongful death claims can be complicated. But having an experienced attorney in your corner can make all the difference.
The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart is a San Francisco-based personal injury firm with over 30 years of experience handling complex legal claims. When you hire our team, you can rest assured knowing that you are in great hands.
Lead attorney Chuck Geerhart has made it his goal to create a practice where he is able to help individuals as they navigate the most difficult times in their lives. He also limits his caseload to under 20 cases at a time so that he is able to provide the highest level of quality and attention that he possibly can.
So contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case and see how our team can help you.
- 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.