No matter what anyone else tells you, people are never really prepared to lose their loved ones. And in addition to grieving and being overwhelmed by the loss of their loved one, surviving family members have to navigate the confusing waters of wrongful death law in California.
Although no money in the world can compensate for the death of your family member, the benefits of recovering damages through a wrongful death settlement or lawsuit cannot be overstated. After all, your family has most likely experienced some sort of financial loss because of the death, and it is likely to impose a significant financial burden for years to come.
Legal problems with wrongful death cases in California
“If some party or multiple parties can be held liable for the death of your family member, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages (for example, burial and funeral expenses, loss of consortium, loss of financial and moral support, loss of benefits, and many more),” says our Riverside wrongful death attorney from the JML Law.
Most defendants in wrongful death cases are reluctant to admit their guilt and refuse to pay out a settlement unless the surviving family members are represented by an experienced lawyer. Also, there are quite a few potential legal problems you may encounter in Riverside or elsewhere in California when pursuing a wrongful death claim.
Distribution of proceeds in a wrongful death settlement
Under California law, the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, dependent stepchildren, dependent parents and dependent minors, who lived in the decedent’s household for at least six months, are all entitled to recover wrongful death damages.
Since there are many parties who can be entitled to a potential recovery for wrongful death, wrongful death cases often get chaotic not only because the plaintiffs are trying to prove the defendant’s liability, but also because the surviving family members are pitted against one another in an attempt to bite off a larger chunk of the settlement or verdict.
“That is why it is highly advised to set up an estate and file a wrongful death action on behalf of the personal representative as one plaintiff,” explains our experienced wrongful death attorney in Riverside.
Wrongful death actions filed separately
Often, when the surviving family is awarded wrongful death compensation, conflicts arise within the family over the distribution of the proceeds. In order to avoid these unnecessary conflicts and avoid proceedings going into the wrong hands, it is highly advised for your lawyer to determine the appropriate distribution of the awarded money by settlement or by the court’s allocation.
Another advantage of appointing a personal representative as one plaintiff to recover damages in a wrongful death suit in California is that it prevents other surviving family members from filing wrongful death lawsuits separately, making it more difficult for judges to allocate proceeds and making it impossible to consolidate various legal actions.
Pain and suffering damages in a wrongful death suit
One of the most common legal pitfalls in wrongful death lawsuits is that surviving family members are trying to recover pain and suffering damages. Our Riverside wrongful death attorney explains that under California law, pain and suffering are not recoverable by the heirs unless the decedent was a victim of elder abuse.
Also, if you are suing the defendant for causing your loved one’s death in a medical malpractice case, be warned that the recovery of non-economic damages in all medical malpractice cases in California is limited to $250,000.
Now that you know the basics of California’s wrongful death law, schedule a free consultation with our lawyers to find out more about your particular case. Contact the JML Law for a free case evaluation. Call at 818-610-8800 or fill out this contact form.