Orange County is one of the smallest counties in California in terms of area. However, it’s also one of the most densely populated with almost 3.2 million residents. And that’s not counting the millions of tourists who visit local attractions like Disneyland.
When this many people come together, accidents will happen. Even worse, they sometimes result in deaths. People can be killed due to the negligence or recklessness of others for a variety of reasons. Family members are usually left in shock and unsure of what to do. Often, the deceased was the main provider and/or left behind small children.
If you or someone close to you lost a loved one unexpectedly in Orange County, call the Orange wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm for a free consultation today at 800-818-1818. We are here for you during this difficult time.
Below you’ll find some of the most common questions we receive regarding wrongful deaths in Orange County. Find out how The Dominguez Firm can help you find justice for your loss.
What are the most common causes of wrongful deaths in Orange County?
Auto accidents may be the most recognized cause of wrongful deaths in Orange County but actually, they are not the leading cause of death.
According to the Orange County coroner, the leading causes of accidental and non-accidental deaths after overdoses in Orange County in 2019 were:
- Slip or trip and fall accidents
- Traffic accidents
It might surprise you to learn that deaths due to slip or trip and fall accidents are slightly more common than deaths from traffic accidents. They are also the leading cause of death for those over the age of 65 nationwide.
The 2020 cause of death statistics for Orange County have not been finalized yet, but sadly, it’s certain that COVID-19 will make the list. Any death from COVID-19 is tragic. For the next of kin of those who contracted COVID due to unsafe conditions at work, in a nursing home or a holding facility, the loss is even more upsetting. Fortunately, the next of kin have legal recourse. They can file a wrongful death claim against those responsible.
Who can sue for a wrongful death?
As in every other county in California, Orange County has specific guidelines as to who can file a wrongful death claim. The surviving next of kin of the deceased are (in order):
- A registered domestic partner
- If there are no children, any grandchildren
- If there are no children or grandchildren, any surviving stepchildren
If the deceased did not have any of the relatives listed here, then aunts and uncles and cousins could be eligible. An experienced Orange County wrongful death attorney can help if there are questions as to the legal next of kin.
What happens if the nearest next of kin is a minor?
If the only next of kin is a minor, the child’s guardianship will need to be defined. Because the child is under the age of 18, they themselves cannot file a wrongful death claim. The court would appoint a guardian for the child if the parent(s) did not leave instructions for guardianship. That guardian can file a wrongful death claim on the child’s behalf.
Can I file a wrongful death claim if I’m an undocumented immigrant?
Absolutely. Your legal status in this country has nothing to do with the loss you’ve suffered. You have the right to file a wrongful death claim in civil court against the person or entity who caused your loved one’s unexpected death.
Defense attorneys cannot use your immigration status against you. They can’t even bring it up at any point during your case. And the government can’t take action against you either. The wrongful death attorneys at The Dominguez Firm will ensure your civil rights are protected at all times while seeking justice for you and your family.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim in Orange County?
In general, you have two years from the date of the death of your loved one to file a wrongful death claim in Orange County. Be aware, it’s not from the date of the incident that caused the death. It’s from the date of their actual death, which may not have been the same day.
If the death was caused by a government entity, whether at the local, state or federal level, you only have six months to take legal action.
However, don’t take these answers to mean you can wait until the last minute to file your wrongful death claim. On the contrary, you should file your claim as soon as quickly as possible. The main reasons for this are:
- Vital evidence can easily be lost if you wait weeks, months or more than a year to file your claim.
- Eyewitness and first responder accounts of what happened can become hazier after a long period of time. Even worse, you may have trouble tracking them down if you wait too long.
- Insurance company adjusters and their lawyers will question why you waited to file your wrongful death claim which can impact your final settlement or verdict.
The person who caused my loved one’s death was acquitted in criminal court. Can I still take legal action against them?
Yes. If the person who caused your loved one’s untimely death was acquitted in criminal court, you can still file a claim against them in civil court for your loss.
Criminal cases can only be filed by the state. If the defendant is convicted, they face possible prison time. Civil cases are different for several reasons:
- Individuals can file civil cases on their own, they don’t have to wait for the state or federal government to do so.
- If the defendant loses in civil court, they face financial penalties, not prison time.
- In criminal court, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil court, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, which is lower. That makes it easier for a plaintiff to prove their case in civil court.
What compensation can I recover for my Orange wrongful death lawsuit?
The legal term for the compensation you could be entitled to is known as damages. You could be entitled to two types of damages for your Orange wrongful death lawsuit, economic and non-economic.
Economic damages in wrongful death cases can easily be added up with a pen and paper. They can include:
- Ambulance fees
- Medical bills for the accident that led to the victim’s death
- Lost income from the date of the victim’s accident as well as the income they expected to earn had they not passed away
- Funeral and burial expenses
Non-economic damages are subjective. They are not based on any bills or pay stubs. Instead, they are based on the emotional loss suffered by the next of kin. Examples include:
- Loss of the anticipated financial support the deceased would have provided their family members.
- Loss of companionship (or consortium in legal terms). This is the legal term for the loss of love, community, affection, moral support, sexual relations, training and guidance, or other emotional losses related to the death of the loved one.
While you can’t add up non-economic damages, they often make up the largest part of a settlement or verdict. That’s why it’s so important to select a personal injury law firm with experience in Orange wrongful death claims. They will know how to fight for the maximum compensation you are entitled to for your loss.
What legal issues can impact a wrongful death case?
Several issues can arise. One of the most common is who exactly has the legal right to present the claim as the next of kin. The experienced Orange wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm are well-versed in this issue. They know how to seek out and determine who all of the next of kin are.
Another situation where there could be problems is if the court awards a lump sum and there is more than one plaintiff. Generally, this happens when there is a surviving spouse and children or several surviving siblings. The plaintiffs are expected to come to an agreement as to how the final amount will be divided. If they can’t do so, the court would step in and divide it for them.
Because California does not recognize common-law marriages, this could present a problem when a surviving partner tries to present a wrongful death case. If they were named in a will or were registered as domestic partners of the deceased, then there are no issues. If neither of these is the case, then presenting a claim becomes much more complicated, no matter how long the couple lived together. An added wrinkle occurs if the couple was recognized as being in a common-law marriage in another state.
Whatever scenario you find yourself in, your best course of action is to call the Orange wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm to see how we can help.
How long will my wrongful death case take?
Your case will take as long as needed to make sure you receive the maximum compensation you are legally entitled to for your loss. We know you may not want to hear that. But keep in mind; no respectable wrongful death attorney can give you an exact time frame for how long you case should take. If they do, you might want to reconsider hiring them.
Many factors determine how long your case could take. Some cases are clear-cut and settle quickly. Others are complex and can take months or over a year to finish. A few of the factors that can make a case take longer include:
- Multiple defendants
- The offer from the defendant’s insurance company for your loss
- Any ongoing police investigations
- Needing to go to trial, which will add time to your case
The Dominguez Firm is a full-service law firm. That means we do not outsource cases or settle for less because we can’t afford to go to trial. On the contrary, we have the resources to see a case through to the end for our clients. Our in-house team of award-winning personal injury trial lawyers in Orange are ready to take your wrongful death case to court if the settlement offer is inadequate. For us, it’s not about rushing through your Orange County wrongful death case, it’s about getting you and your family the justice and total compensation you are entitled to.
How much will it cost me to hire the wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm?
The Dominguez Firm works on a contingency basis. That means we’re paid a percentage of your final settlement or verdict. That percentage will be clearly outlined in the client representation agreement you sign with us initially. And it won’t change depending on the amount of your final compensation.
When you hire the Orange wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm, you don’t have to deal with upfront costs or hidden fees. And in the unlikely event, we aren’t able to secure any compensation for your loss, you owe us nothing. In other words, you win, or you don’t pay. There’s no reason to wait, call the Orange County wrongful death attorneys at The Dominguez Firm today. Call us at 800-818-1818 for a free consultation. We’re available 24/7.
Why you should choose The Dominguez Firm to handle your Orange County wrongful death lawsuit
The Orange wrongful death lawyers at The Dominguez Firm have been successfully helping families with their wrongful death claims for over 30 years. We have an in-house team of investigators, award-winning wrongful death attorneys, and over 130 legal professionals ready to help you at a moment’s notice. We also live by our firm’s motto for every client: compassion, service, and results.
You can rest assured your wrongful death case will not be referred out to another firm. And we won’t settle for less to avoid the cost of going to trial. And we won’t settle for less to close the books on your case. Insurance companies and their attorneys are well aware of this, which works in our clients’ favor.
We will fight to get you the maximum compensation you are entitled to for your loss. And while we know no amount of money can ever change what happened to your loved one, obtaining justice and financial peace of mind for you and your family can provide closure at such a difficult time.