San Luis Obispo Wrongful Death Lawyers

A loved one’s death is always a tragedy. In the most heartbreaking cases, however, it could have been avoided if only someone else had been more careful. This is what is legally considered a “wrongful death”—the loss of a life due to someone’s misconduct or negligence. The law says that when a wrongful death is committed, the person who caused it is responsible, even if they did not cause it on purpose. As San Luis Obispo wrongful death lawyers, we are dedicated to upholding that law and helping your family.

You can find a list of the most common heavy duty vehicles involved in truck accident injuries and deaths below. Click on the section headings to learn more about the respective vehicle, including relevant laws and statistics for personal injury victims.

Our San Luis Obispo personal injury lawyers understand that the law for a wrongful death was established to help keep our communities safe and prevent people from acting in a way that causes risks to the people around them. This can include many types of situations, such as an employer who doesn’t provide workers with adequate safety equipment, a property owner who leaves a dangerous well uncovered, or a reckless driver who causes a car accident. All of these people failed to take basic, reasonable precautions to protect those around them. Many other situations count as wrongful deaths as well.

If your loved one has been killed due to someone else’s actions or negligence, you have legal options. Call our San Luis Obispo wrongful death lawyers at (805) 779-3630 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation today.

What Is A Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is when a bad act leads to someone’s death. Wrongful conduct can be anything, but a few examples are driving a car drunk, construction crews not following procedures, or commercial trucks that are speeding. In lawyer terms, wrongful death is any death that is caused by the intentional acts or negligence of another party, whether that’s a person or another entity (such as a large corporation). Wrongful death is a civil matter, meaning the cases deal in terms of how much money will compensate for the harm. However, there may be criminal aspects to the case as well.

If the person or corporation that caused the death is brought up on criminal charges, the criminal helps the civil case be brought to justice through which you would recover compensation.

Do I Have A Wrongful Death Case?

If your loved one was killed by the actions, wrongful conduct, or negligence of someone else, you may have a wrongful death case. However, if you are not entitled to bring a lawsuit under California law, then you do not have a case. An experienced San Luis Obispo wrongful death lawyer can help you determine if you have a case during your free consultation.

Wrongful death cases are often based on negligence. In legal terms, negligence occurs when a person or entity acts in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t, and therefore causes injury. While that seems simple enough, there are four elements of negligence that must be proven. These are:

In wrongful death cases, it’s generally easy to prove that you suffered real damages. This may include lost wages, end-of-life medical bills and other expenses, and more.

 In order for negligence to be proven in wrongful death cases, it must be proven that the breach of duty actually caused the fatal injury. For instance, if your loved one is involved in a car accident, but they have a fatal heart attack at the same time, the person who caused the wreck may not be liable for the death.

If someone acts in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t, and therefore causes injury, they have breached their duty of care. However, if the injury was caused by an unforeseeable event or circumstance, the duty of care may not have been breached.

In general, every person has a duty to not cause harm to another. This could mean drivers following all traffic laws while driving, doctors providing proper care, or manufacturers ensuring their products are safe when used properly.

Who Can Bring The Wrongful Death Claim?

In order to bring a suit for wrongful death, someone related to the deceased must bring the claim. A parent, child, or spouses are the most common relatives who use this type of action.

Having a wrongful death attorney will also help substantially. While you are not required to have a lawyer to pursue your claim, a lawyer will know how to navigate the legal process, how to pressure the insurance company, and how to negotiate for the full amount you deserve. Fighting this battle alone can be not only very hard, but very emotional. Your wrongful death lawyer will make sure you are informed at each step of the process, and take care of the legal work for you.

How A Lawyer Will Help You

When you work with a wrongful death lawyer in San Luis Obispo, they will begin the investigation process to help determine whether or not you have a case. Either your lawyer or an expert that they trust will look into your loved one’s end-of-life medical records, any police reports associated with the fatal incident, and other aspects to determine whether or not you have a case.

If they determine you have a case, they will then investigate how much compensation you may be owed. Without a lawyer, you could be left trying to determine all of this on your own — all while you’re trying to put the pieces of your life back together.

A California wrongful death lawyer can take most of the burden of the legal process off your shoulders during this difficult time in your life. At Ernst Law Group, our attorneys will keep you as informed and involved in the legal process as you’d like to be. If you want to be kept up-to-date on every detail, we can do that. If you only want to be informed on major updates, we can do that, too.

Car accidents are regularly a top cause of death in the United States. Drivers may be distracted, causing them to crash into another vehicle or a fixed object like a utility pole. Passengers, including children, may not be properly fastened in. Inebriated drivers may not have full control of their vehicle. No matter the cause, car accidents can be deadly.

Due to simple physics, truck accidents often result in death. Semi trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds, whereas the average passenger car weighs around 2,000 pounds. So when a semi truck collides with a car, the results are often catastrophic. Truck accidents may be caused by the actions of the trucker, or by the actions of a passenger car driver.

For older adults, slip and fall accidents are an all-too-common cause of wrongful death. Senior adults may go shopping or otherwise be on someone’s property, then either trip over an obstacle or slip on a wet spot. When they fall, they may break bones, which can lead to severe injury, infections or otherwise cause death.

Though injuries that occur in an office setting may not cause death, construction sites, factories and other workplaces can be highly dangerous. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the most common causes of death in the workplace are: falls from a height, being struck by an object, electrocutions, and being caught in/caught in between objects.

California Laws On Wrongful Death Lawsuits

There are a few different laws associated with wrongful death in California. Your lawyer will be intimately familiar with these laws, so you don’t need to worry yourself too much with understanding the legalese. However, if you want to familiarize yourself with these laws, they include:

In addition, there are a variety of court cases and other documents that set precedents regarding what damages can and can’t be awarded in a wrongful death case, as well as other important details. These include:

Statute Of Limitations

There is a statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Each state has specific time limits for how long after the incident someone can file. In California, the statute of limitations is 2 years. The limitation comes from California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1, which provides: 335.1. Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. In plain English, this means you have 2 years to file suit, starting from the date of the incident. This does not mean it must be completed within two years, but rather just must be filed. If the suit is not filed within two years of the incident, you lose your right to compensation. For wrongful death cases stemming from medical malpractice, the general statute of limitations is 3 years, or one year after you should have reasonably discovered the injury — whichever comes first. In some cases, this deadline is even shorter. If the party responsible is a government entity or organization, the statute of limitations is reduced to 6 months, and the case becomes a “public entity case.” This is a very short period of time, and you need to speak with an attorney immediately if this applies to you.

In some cases, the statute of limitations may be tolled. This means the clock stops running for a certain period of time. For example, if the victim of wrongful death is a minor at the time of their death, the statute of limitations wouldn’t start running until they would have turned 18. In other cases, the statute of limitations pay pause if there are criminal proceedings associated with the death. The clock would begin running (again) after criminal proceedings are concluded.

Types Of Recoverable Damages In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

As established through the various court cases listed above (as well as other cases, laws and other legal documents), the family of a wrongful death victim can recover economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are those that pertain directly to the real financial losses due to the wrongful death. They include:

  • The financial support that may have been provided by the decedent
  • The lost inheritance that would have been provided by the decedent
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Medical bills related to the fatal injury or illness
  • The value of household services the decedent may have provided

Noneconomic damages are more abstract and subjective. They aren’t related to money lost because of the death, but rather the emotional well-being of the survivors. Noneconomic damages include compensation for the protection, society, affection, moral support, training, guidance and sexual relations provided by the decedent.

Under California law, survivors may NOT be compensated for grief, sorrow or pain and suffering caused by the decedent’s death.

In some cases, punitive or exemplary damages may also be assessed. However, these must be brought by the decedent’s estate, not their heirs. This is considered a “survival action.” In addition, the only way punitive damages can be assessed is if the decedent suffered economic loss before death stemming from fraud, oppression or malice. With these criteria, punitive damages in San Luis Obispo wrongful death cases are exceedingly rare.

In general, a wrongful death case can take anywhere from several months to a few years in court. However, this timeline can be shortened in some instances. For example, if an insurance company or responsible party offers a fair settlement, and you accept it, your case is concluded.

In California, the party who brings the lawsuit would be awarded any compensation won. So if the decedent’s spouse brings the suit, they would be awarded the compensation. But for punitive damages, the estate would be awarded the compensation. It would then be distributed according to the decedent’s final wishes or end-of-life documents, such as a will.

NO! According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), any settlement or verdict that is awarded for physical injury or illness isn’t taxable. This includes wrongful death. However, if punitive damages are assessed and awarded to the estate, those damages may be taxed.

If you are considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you should find a lawyer who handles these cases on a regular basis and knows the state laws associated with these types of suits. In addition, your lawyer should also have a proven track record of winning these cases. Finally, they should be in good standing with the state bar association and should be able to provide references. Consult the San Luis Obispo wrongful death lawyers with Ernst Law. 

No. Personally, you or other survivors are not able to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death case. However, in rare instances, the estate may be able to recover punitive or exemplary damages through a survival action.

Speak To Our San Luis Obispo Wrongful Death Lawyers Today

If your loved one has lost their life due to the wrongful actions of someone else, you and your family have legal rights. At Ernst Law Group, we know how stressful and painful this time in life can be. We are here to help you pick up the pieces and begin recovering financially from your loss.

Give our San Luis Obispo wrongful death attorneys a call today at (805) 779-3630 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation today. It costs you nothing upfront to talk with us or to hire us. We only get paid if we win your case.

California Unlimited Civil Filings Including Wrongful Death

wrongful death civil filings graph

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When you or someone you love suffers an injury in California, the physical, emotional, and financial worries can be overwhelming. During this trying time, you need help from a professional legal advocate with experience. Ernst Law Group is the premier trial law firm on the Central Coast. Our firm has the resources to take a case to trial and lawyers with experience winning cases against the biggest corporations and insurance companies in the business. We are fighters who only represent the injured, never insurance companies.

We also do not charge legal fees or costs until we win your case. Give us a call now at 805-779-3630 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. We’ll explain how we can help and answer key questions, including:

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