Know Your Rights as the Surviving Family of Wrongful Death Victims

surviving family of wrongful death los angeles

Wrongful death is a devastating outcome that results from a person or entity’s negligence or misconduct. In some cases, this can be the result of intentional violence (when there is explicit intent to end another person’s life, the case is elevated to murder). In California, surviving family members of a wrongful death victim can sue the people or entities responsible and file a claim to seek compensation for damages.

California classifies wrongful death damages into two: economic and non-economic. These include the following:

  • The victim’s out-of-pocket medical and hospitalization expenses resulting from the incident
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of income of the victim (including the potential revenue the victim would have continued to earn had he or she survived)

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Damages Claims?

California is particular about the people who may file claims for damages in a wrongful death incident. They must be directly related to the deceased victim, such as:

  • The surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • The surviving children
  • The victims’ grandchildren, if their parent or the deceased’s child is no longer living
  • The victim’s parents and siblings

California law gives exceptions to the parents and siblings of the victim because even though they are not in the direct line of descent, they could be entitled to the victim’s property through intestate succession. Financial dependents who are not related by blood to the victim may also file for a wrongful death lawsuit and claims:

  • The putative spouse (not legally married to the victim, but either or both believe, in good faith, that their marriage is valid)
  • The children of the putative spouse
  • The victim’s stepchildren

If you are any of these individuals, you have the right to press charges against the people responsible for the wrongful death of your loved one and file claims for damages.

What Damages Can You File For in a Wrongful Death?

The surviving families of wrongful death victims may also receive compensation from the defendants. As previously mentioned, the damages for wrongful death claims can either be economical or non-economical.

Below are examples of the compensation you can file a claim for:

  • Compensation for economic losses:
    • Damaged possessions, like a vehicle in a car accident
    • Loss of financial support (if the victim was the breadwinner or financially supported the surviving family members)
    • Loss of insurance benefits
    • Cost of household services
  • Compensation for emotional distress
    • Trauma
    • Grief
    • Pain and suffering
    • Loss of love, guidance, community, and moral support

To file claims for economic damages, a wrongful death attorney can guide you through the process, from filling out the Standard Form 95 to choosing the right court to file a claim. In Los Angeles, you may only file a wrongful death case in LA courts if the death occurred in the city, or if the defendant and his livelihood are also based in LA.

If you also want to claim compensation for property that was damaged during the incident that resulted in the wrongful death (e.g., the vehicle the victim was driving), you can also consult a property damage insurance lawyer.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim?

Consistent with most personal injury claims, California requires wrongful death claims to be filed within two (2) years of the victim’s death. The family and dependents will lose the right to press wrongful death charges and claims beyond this period.

Wrongful death claims can be an extra burden on family and relatives who are already distressed by the untimely death of a loved one. However, it is necessary for the surviving family’s peace of mind. It is one way of seeking justice for the death of their family member, especially if you no longer want to press punitive charges.

We can help alleviate your distress by giving you reliable legal services. Whether you need a wrongful death attorney or an expert in property damage claims in Los Angeles, Haffner Law can come to your aid.

Visit our practice or call 213-514-5681 today to schedule a consultation.

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Workplace Fatality: Wrongful Death or Workers’ Compensation Case?

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Workplace deaths are rare circumstances, but their numbers continue to rise. There were about 5,250 fatal injuries at work in 2018. This is an increase of 2% from the previous year. Most of these deaths involve sales workers and truck drivers, totaling 966 in 2018.

If a loved one dies at work, it should be taken to court, especially if it’s the result of negligence. When you decide to get compensation, Haffner Law can help you through the process. In most personal injury cases, you may have two options: filing a wrongful death lawsuit or getting workers’ compensation or “death benefits.”

Joshua Haffner has worked on multiple personal injury cases, helping clients determine their best options.

Although both provide compensation after the loss of a loved one, certain differences between the two may be more appropriate to your situation.

Workers Compensation Death Benefit

People who depend on the deceased financially may get death benefits from California’s Workers’ Compensation System. This covers work-related injuries or illnesses. Apart from being dependent on the victim to qualify, you must also be related to them as their:

  • Spouse
  • Child
  • Grandchild
  • Parent and in-law
  • Sibling
  • Niece or Nephew
  • Grandparent
  • Aunt or uncle

You need to prove that you’re totally or partially dependent on the deceased. You need to show that they’ve been providing your living expenses and needs. However, you may immediately qualify if:

  • You’re their spouse who earns $30,000 or less;
  • Their child/nephew or niece/grandson or granddaughter who is under 18, or
  • You’re their adult child who’s unable to work because you’re incapacitated due to a physical or mental illness.

The surviving family may get as much as $320,000 from the state and burial cost coverage from the employer if they have three or more members dependent on the deceased. This amount is paid every week. The claim must be made within a year of your family member’s death.

In contrast to wrongful death, the death benefit from workers compensation doesn’t cover the intangible loss. Pain and suffering, along with the loss of a partner, can be covered under a personal injury lawsuit.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

You may file wrongful death as a:

  • Surviving partner
  • Child
  • Stepchild
  • Parent
  • A minor dependent on the deceased

You can sue for damages, such as medical bills expenses, funeral and burial expenses, the money your loved one would have earned if they were alive, loss of companionship, and losing financial support.

However, you need to prove the following:

  1. Their death was caused by the company’s negligence or intent to harm
  2. The surviving family is suffering from monetary problems because of the deceased’s passing
  3. There is now a representative for the deceased’s estate

The first two are often a challenge to prove, especially if you’re going against a large company with a team of expert lawyers. As such, it’s important to have a capable Long Beach wrongful death lawyer on your side, too.

Although taking it to court may be lengthy and exhausting, you’ll rest easy after the case, knowing you sought justice for your deceased loved one.

Haffner Law Fights for You

Haffner Law helps you secure just compensation for the wrongful loss of a loved one. Joshua Haffner has worked on multiple personal injury cases, representing Californians who have been victimized by negligence for more than 20 years.

We will have your back.

Contact us at 1-844-HAFFNER or 213-514-5681 today for a free consultation from one of our experienced lawyers.

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Proving “Pain and Suffering” in a Personal Injury Case

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Physical pain and recovery are not the only things victims of personal injury cases have to contend with but also mental pain and suffering. One could even argue that the latter is more difficult to overcome than a battery of treatments, surgery, and therapy.

If your injury is the result of someone else’s negligence or wrongful doing, you have a right to demand compensation for the cost of your hospitalization, ER treatment, and other medical procedures. You can also file claims for mental pain and suffering.

Types of Compensatory Damages in California

Two types of compensatory damages that are acknowledged by California courts:

  • Economic Damages – These refer to damages that are easy to calculate, like ER and hospitalization fees and the costs of medicines, surgery, and other necessary treatments. This is why the legal community also refers to economic damages as “physical pain and suffering.” Claims for these damages can also cover lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and medical costs the victim will have to spend for in the future.

Economic damages are based on cold facts and data (e.g., hospital records and police reports), so they are easier to present and prove in court.

  • Non-Economic Damages – These refer to pain and suffering that are not easily measurable and difficult to back up with calculable data, but exist because of the respondent’s negligence or wrongdoing. Examples of these are mental and emotional distress, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and wrongful death.

Claimants must hire experienced attorneys for wrongful death lawsuits and claims on non-economic damages. These cases are harder to prove in the courts of Long Beach, Los Angeles, or anywhere else in California, thanks to their subjective nature.

Acceptable Proof of Pain and Suffering

Whether a claim gets settled outside of court or ends up being tried, all parties involved will look for evidence of pain and suffering before calculating damages. The following can hold water in court or the mediation room:

For physical pain and suffering:

  • Police records
  • Physician’s reports
  • Photographic or video evidence of the incident

For mental/emotional pain and suffering:

  • Proof of treatment by a mental health professional
  • Personal journals of the claimant
  • Documentation and sworn statements from the claimant’s family and friends

As a claimant or plaintiff, you must have sufficient documentation and irrefutable proof so that insurers and defendants cannot deny or reduce your claims.

Calculation of Damages

Extensive documentation from licensed physicians and other credible sources also serve another purpose: they inform jurors of the severity of the injuries, whether physical or mental.

If you’re filing claims for non-economic damages, you must establish the truth about your pain and suffering. Insurers and jurors calculate the damages using a multiplier, which in turn is based on the severity of the injury. The more severe the suffering, the higher the multiplier and compensation you can receive.

There is no definitive rule for determining multipliers or calculating damages, but insurers and jurors are expected to be reasonable and fair to the claimant’s pain and suffering. To improve your chances of getting a satisfactory settlement, hire a personal injury lawyer from Haffner Law. We will champion your rights and fight to get the highest possible settlement on your behalf.

Contact us and schedule your free consultation today.

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Accidental vs. Wrongful Death: What’s the Difference?

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Not every incident that results in loss of life warrants legal action. The death that follows an accident, for instance, may be accidental or wrongful. The surviving family members may not be able to seek damages if the death is due to an accident without negligence.

On the other hand, the surviving kin of the deceased may contact an experienced wrongful death attorney if the demise of the victim is due to negligence.

How can people differentiate accidental and wrongful death? These concepts may help clear the confusion:

Accidental Death Defined

This type of death pertains to a demise resulting from an unusual, unintended, unexpected, and unforeseeable event.  The death of the person is accidental without another party’s negligence causing it, where it occurs without any unreasonable conduct by a party other than decent.  The key concept is whether a person or entity other than the decedent acted negligently, or unreasonably under the circumstances, and contributed to the death.

Some examples of accidental death could be:

  • Industrial accidents – This includes mining accidents, explosions on the workplace, and equipment malfunctions. Here, the negligent party may only be the employer, in which case a civil action would most often be barred by workers’ compensation.
  • Poisoning – The death may be due to poisoning by liquids and solids or vapors and gases, and there is no negligent party who caused it.
  • Blunt impact from a projectile or falling object
  • Suffocation caused by swallowing and choking on food or other objects that obstruct the air passage

The Definition of Wrongful Death

This type of death occurs when the misconduct or negligence of an individual kills a person. The law defines key elements present in wrongful death. These are:

  • Negligence – The surviving member should prove that the victim’s demise was due to the defending party’s careless or reckless actions.
  • Causation – The plaintiff must demonstrate how the negligence or misbehavior of the defendant caused the death of the victim.
  • Breach of Duty – The surviving member should establish that the defending party breached the Duty of Care owed to the dead victim. Tort law defines Duty of Care as the legal obligation of an individual or organization to avoid committing omissions or behaviors that may foreseeably hurt others.

A few examples of wrongful death are:

  • Medical Malpractice – Wrongful death may happen if hospitals or medical professionals fail to adhere to proper procedures.
  • Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect – The staff and the nursing home facility may be liable for wrongful death if they are unable to monitor, care for, and deliver medical attention to residents.
  • Defective Product – Both the manufacturer and company that sold the product may be responsible for wrongful death if a person dies from using the product.

Assisting Clients with Wrongful Death Claims

If you have reason to believe that the death of your family member is due to the negligence of another party, you can file a wrongful death claim with the help of a law firm. Haffner Law assists clients in Long Beach in obtaining just compensation for the untimely and wrongful passing of their loved one.

Our attorneys will investigate your claim, hold the at-fault party responsible for the demise of your family member, and secure the fair and full settlement you deserve.

Schedule a consultation with our law office by calling 1-844-HAFFNER today.

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When is a Birth Injury the Basis for a Medical Malpractice Case?

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According to a recent report, the United States is the most dangerous developed country where you can give birth. Statistics indicate over 50,000 mothers suffer significant injuries while or after they’ve giving birth and approximately 700 mothers die. The report also claims that health care providers in the country have a disturbing lack of attention regarding safety recommendations and protection for new mothers.

But how do you differentiate a birth injury due to natural complications from one that’s the result of a preventable medical error?

Characteristics of Medical Malpractice

Attorneys specializing in wrongful deaths and birth injuries determine the viability of a medical malpractice case by determining if it meets the following characteristics:

  • There must be a violation of standard care procedures. Medical professionals must abide by legally acknowledged and professionally accepted treatments, also known as the standard of care. As a patient, your loved one has the right to receive this level of treatment consistently from their medical providers. Determining if this standard was upheld is the first step to establishing the presence of medical malpractice.
  • Negligence should have led to an injury. Valid medical malpractice claims should also prove that there was negligence as well as the violation of standard care led to an injury that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. A negative outcome of the procedure isn’t enough justification for malpractice. It must be proven that negligence caused damage.
  • There must be significant damages. Because of the time-consuming and expensive nature of medical malpractice cases, the injury inflicted by the medical professional’s violation of standard care and negligence should be suitably significant. This usually means that the injury led to a considerable loss of income, inordinate levels of pain and suffering, disability, or death.

Once these characteristics have been established, your medical malpractice claim is viable and can proceed to court.

Common Birth Related Medical Mistakes

The following are the most common types of medical mistakes associated with birth complications and injuries.

  • Misdiagnosis: This refers to instances when medical professionals fail to accurately diagnose a pregnant woman’s state of health. They could be unaware that someone has a complicated pregnancy, they could misdiagnose underlying medical conditions, or even fail to diagnose that someone is pregnant.
  • Surgical Errors: These are instances when a medical professional commits a mistake during the birthing or afterward. These could include errors that injure the baby and the mother, such as excessive pressure during labor, leaving behind surgical clips inside the mother during C-sections, or improper birthing technique leading to injured limbs.
  • Medication Errors: Aside from prescribing improper medication or making an error on the correct dosage, these mistakes include anesthesia-related incidents, which may be fatal to the mother.
  • Nursing Errors: These errors cover a lot of incidents, from causing infection to causing injuries from mishandling equipment. However, this also includes documentation errors, like misfiled paperwork that could lead to injuries or even death.

Births should be celebrations of life, not occasions of misery. With the right legal representation, you can receive justice for any loss of life or injury from medical mishaps during childbirth.

We Fight for You

Haffner Lawyers offers the services of our experienced team of trial attorneys to help you receive the full compensation you deserve. Whether you’re seeking reparations from an auto accident or medical malpractice, we’re on your side.

Read about our notable cases today to see what we can do for you

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