Losing a loved one is always painful. When your loss is caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, that makes it even more traumatic. Here in Long Beach, certain surviving family members can take legal action against those responsible by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, no amount of money can ever make up for your loss but holding those responsible accountable can help bring a sense of closure. It can also provide much needed financial relief at such a difficult time.
If you unexpectedly lost a family member due to someone else’s actions, call the Long Beach wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm today. We’re available for free consultations at 800-818-1818.
Keep reading to find out more about Long Beach wrongful death claims. We’ll also answers some of the most common questions we receive regarding this area of personal injury law.
Who can sue for a wrongful death in Long Beach?
Only certain immediate family members can file a wrongful death claim in Long Beach. California law lists the order of preference:
- A registered domestic partner
- If there are no children, any grandchildren
- If there are no children or grandchildren, any surviving stepchildren
If none of these family members can be found, others including surviving aunts, uncles or cousins may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Also, California does not recognize common-law marriages. A surviving partner might have a hard time filing a wrong death claim if they are not named in the decedent’s will nor registered as a domestic partner. This holds true regardless of how long the couple lived together. Given the complexity of this situation, your best course of action is to seek a free consultation from a Long Beach wrongful death attorney at The Dominguez Firm.
How does Long Beach rank for traffic accident injuries and deaths?
Located in the County of Los Angeles, Long Beach has over 460,000 residents. That makes it the 7th largest city in California. It’s also a major tourist destination that attracts people from all over the world. Add to that the very busy Port of Long Beach and you have millions of cars, trucks, and motorcycles on Long Beach’s roads and freeways. It also means the potential for lots of auto accidents. The California Office of Traffic Safety’s accident statistics reflect that:
- In 2017, 2,595 people were injured or killed in traffic accidents in Long Beach.
- 222 bicyclists were injured or killed, making Long Beach the 2nd most dangerous city for this type of accident.
- 141 motorcycle riders were injured or killed, making Long Beach the 3rd worst city for motorcycle accidents.
- And finally, Long Beach had the sad distinction of ranking first for pedestrians under the age of 15 injured or killed in traffic accidents in 2017 with 54 victims.
Besides traffic accidents, what are some other examples of wrongful death acts?
Family members can file a wrongful death claim for many different types of wrongful death acts, not just traffic accidents. Among the most common are:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Murder or manslaughter
- Elder abuse
- Child abuse
- Medical malpractice
- Work accidents
Make no mistake, slip and fall accidents are no joke and belong on this list. According to the CDC, they are the leading cause of death for those over the age of 65.
What compensation is available for a wrongful death?
The damages (legal speak for compensation) that can be awarded in a Long Beach wrongful death claim are economic and non-economic. As the names imply, one can be added up with a calculator while the other cannot. They include:
- Ambulance fees
- Medical bills associated with the death
- Lost income by the victim. This includes lost income while the victim was hospitalized and all future income they reasonably expected to earn in their lifetime had they lived.
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
The non-economic damages include:
- Loss of anticipated financial support.
- Loss of consortium (companionship). This includes love, community, affection, moral support, sexual relations, training and guidance, or other emotional losses related to the family member’s death.
In California, claimants are not entitled to damages for pain and suffering. However, surviving family members may be granted punitive damages in cases where the defendant has been convicted of felony murder. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant, not to compensate the victim’s family members. The court may grant punitive damages to deter similar behavior from others in the future.
How much time do I have to file a Long Beach wrongful death claim?
Generally speaking, you have two years from the date of the person’s death, not the date of the event that caused their death. For example, say your family member is badly injured in a car accident but is kept alive on a respirator for three months before passing away. The statute of limitations (legal term for the time you have to file a personal injury claim) starts on the day they died, not the date of their accident.
If the person’s death was caused by a government entity, such as a slip and fall accident at the post office, then you have six months from the date of the person’s death to file a Long Beach wrongful death claim.
In cases where the only surviving next of kin is a child or children, they have two years from when they turn 18 to file a wrongful death claim. So, they would have to file their claim before they turn 20 years of age.
Having outlined all of this, it doesn’t mean you should wait until the last minute to file your wrongful death claim. There are several reasons why:
- Defense attorneys may question why you waited so long to take legal action in an attempt to weaken your claim.
- Everyone’s (witnesses, police, first responders, medical staff) recollection of what happened may not be as clear after a year or two. Also, witnesses can be hard to track down if a lot of time has passed. People move and don’t always leave forwarding information.
- Vital evidence may be lost or more difficult to find as time passes. As an example, a fresh accident scene will show evidence of what happened. After a year, any remnants will be long gone.
The person who caused my loved one’s death was acquitted in criminal court. Can I still bring a wrongful death claim against them?
Yes. Regardless of what happens in criminal court, you can still sue the person who caused your loved one’s wrongful death. That’s because your wrongful death claim would be filed in civil court instead. And because the burden of proof is lower in civil court, it’s not unusual for someone to be acquitted in criminal court but found liable for wrongful death in a civil court.
The other major difference between criminal court and civil court is that in criminal court, the punishment involves possible prison time. In civil court, the plaintiff is awarded monetary damages for their loss instead.
How long will my wrongful death claim take?
Each personal injury case is different. We know that no one likes to hear that, but it’s the truth. Some Long Beach wrongful death cases are complex and can involve several people or entities. Other determining factors can include:
- How long any police investigation takes.
- How the responsible party’s insurance company responds to your claim.
- If both sides can’t reach agreement on a fair settlement amount, the case could go to trial, which will certainly add time to your case.
Could my wrongful death claim end up going to trial?
It could. Our main objective in every Long Beach wrongful death claim is to make sure you obtain the maximum compensation you are legally entitled to for your loss of a loved one. And we’re not afraid to go to court to obtain that if needed.
Unlike other personal injury law firms, The Dominguez Firm has in-house award-winning personal injury attorneys in Long Beach who are ready to fight for your rights. We won’t refer your case out to another law firm or settle for less. We have the resources to take on even the biggest insurance companies in court and aren’t afraid to do so if needed.
How is the compensation from a wrongful death claim divided?
If a surviving spouse is filing a claim and there are children involved, the court will usually award a lump sum. It’s up to the family to divide the amount between themselves. The same goes for surviving siblings, etc. In cases where the claimants can’t come to an agreement on how to divide the settlement or verdict, the court may do so for them.
What if I can’t afford to pay for a personal injury attorney?
By hiring The Dominguez Firm, you don’t have to worry about how you’ll be able to pay a lawyer. That’s because we work on a contingency basis. That means we don’t get paid until we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. At that time, we receive a percentage of that final settlement or verdict. That percentage will be clearly spelled out in the client representation agreement you sign with at the beginning of your case. You have no upfront fees or hidden costs to worry about. And in the unlikely event that we’re not able to recover anything for you, you owe us nothing. In other words, we win, or you don’t pay!
As you can see, you can afford to hire a wrongful death attorney. There’s no need to take on the insurance company and their attorneys by yourself. That can end up costing you dearly. Let the wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm help you fight for justice.
Can I file a wrongful death claim if I’m an undocumented immigrant?
Yes. When it comes to personal injury cases, your immigration status does not matter. You can take legal action and file a wrongful death claim in civil court without fear of government actions against you. In addition, defense attorneys cannot bring up your immigration status. The Long Beach wrongful death attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are well aware of your rights and how to protect them.
The Dominguez Firm is here for you
The Dominguez Firm has over 30 years of experience successfully helping families in Long Beach and throughout Los Angeles County with their wrongful death claims. We are a powerhouse personal injury law firm with nationally recognized trial lawyers, resources and a staff of over 120 legal professionals. The Dominguez Firm wrongful death lawyers in Long Beach are here for you! Call us at 800-818-1818 today for a free consultation.