San Jose is an ever-growing hotbed of innovation and cutting-edge technology. In this bustling Bay Area city, things don’t always go as planned. Equipment malfunctions, intoxicated people get behind the wheel of a vehicle, and companies fail to follow safety best practices. When people lose their lives in tragic and preventable accidents, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger represents surviving family members in wrongful death lawsuits. Speak with one of our San Jose wrongful death attorneys during a free consultation today. Call us at (415) 889-2919 or fill out an online contact form.
San Jose Wrongful Death Resources & FAQs
Types of San Jose Wrongful Death Cases Our Firm Handles
The qualified attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have extensive experience handling a wide range of claims, including wrongful death cases. We understand that wrongful death claims arise in a variety of ways in and around the San Jose area. Some of the most common ways but these cases arise include the following:
- Vehicle accidents. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, there were more than 3,600 total fatal vehicle collisions across the state during the latest reporting year. Unfortunately, insurance policies will not likely provide enough compensation in these situations.
- Medical malpractice cases. Researchers from Johns Hopkins have said that medical mistakes claim as many as 250,000 lives each year in this country. These mistakes include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, anesthesia mistakes, birth injuries, and more.
- Workplace accidents. There were more than 5,000 total fatal workplace injuries during the latest reporting year across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Families of workplace fatalities should be entitled to various types of compensation through workers’ compensation benefits or a third-party lawsuit.
- Bicycle or pedestrian accidents. Bicyclists and pedestrians are especially vulnerable to the force of a vehicle slamming into them. Unfortunately, drivers throughout California tend to ignore pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
- Defective product incidents. Defective products can result in fatalities in any number of ways. Products become defective due to design flaws, manufacturing errors, and incorrect labels, and companies and manufacturers should be held accountable with these fatalities occur.
- Swimming pool incidents. Property owners have a duty to ensure that pools and hot tubs are safe and secure. This includes building fences and gates around the pool or hot tub.
Please understand that this is not an all-inclusive list of the ways that wrongful death cases arise in and around the San Jose area. Our attorneys are standing by to discuss the particular aspects of your case with you. We understand families dealing with the loss of a loved one or going through so much, and our goal is to make this as easy as possible so you can gain some closure for what happened.
Why File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Losing a loved one is never easy, but knowing a death was preventable can feel unbearable. As you grieve and move through the probate process (if applicable), consider the merits of a wrongful death lawsuit. Survivors of preventable fatal accidents have a right to compensation under California laws.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Under current laws, surviving spouses and surviving children can file wrongful death claims against the persons responsible for a loved one’s death. If the deceased individual does not have a primary survivor or domestic partner, a parent, sibling, stepchild, or another financial dependent may file the death claim. In successful wrongful death cases, financial compensation may go to the estate and qualifying family members.
How Long Do You Have To File A Wrongful Death Claim?
It is crucial for any family member or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to understand that they have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim in San Jose. The California wrongful death statute of limitations is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. If the family members or the estate of the deceased fail to file their claim within this two-year timeframe, they will lose the ability to recover any compensation they may be entitled to.
Can You File A Wrongful Death Claim If Your Loved One Did Not Die At The Scene Of The Accident?
Yes, it is absolutely possible for family members or the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death claim if the deceased did not die at the scene of the incident. When we look at the California wrongful death statute of limitations, we can see that the language specifically says that these claims must be filed within two years from the date of the decedent’s death. It does not say that the claim must be filed within two years from the decedent’s injury that caused the death.
This is an important distinction because it is not uncommon for a person to sustain an injury and live for a while longer. For example, a person could sustain serious injuries in a car accident but live for days or even weeks after the incident occurs. Just because a person does not pass away as soon as an accident occurs does not mean that their loved ones will be entitled to nothing.
However, it is crucial for family members and the personal representative of the deceased to speak to a skilled San Jose wrongful death lawyer who can ensure that the claim is filed on time and filed properly.
Why Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?
The wrongful death attorneys at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger can help you at every stage of the claim from identifying other survivors, to calculating a settlement request. We work with financial experts to determine the total extent of losses including funeral expenses, medical bills, lost income and financial support, burial expenses, lost familial services, and lost love and guidance.
If we do not receive an appropriate settlement offer outside of the courtroom, we will take your claim to trial to fight for maximum compensation. As one of the premier wrongful death law firms in Northern California, many insurance companies prefer to meet your settlement requests than to face us in court.
Why Choose Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger?
Our firm has time, cutting-edge resources, expertise, and legal community connections on our side. Many of our wrongful death attorneys have worked in San Jose for so long they know the judges who preside over death claims and how they run their courtrooms. Since 1959, we’ve secured numerous six and seven figure settlements and verdicts on our clients’ behalves.
In wrongful death claims, we offer compassionate support to the families we serve while delivering unflinching and compelling cases to opposing counsel. Our San Jose wrongful death lawyers have worked with surviving families to secure:
- A $3.3 million settlement in a fatal airline crash
- A $2.25 million settlement in a preventable child drowning case
- A $2 million settlement in a fatal fall accident at a construction site
- A $7.36 million verdict in a fatal car accident
- A $5.65 million settlement in an anesthesia overdose case
We accept claims on a contingency fee basis, so any family that suffers can access high quality legal support. We will never accept legal fees unless we recover compensation for the claim.
What is Considered a Wrongful Death in San Jose?
A wrongful death claim can arise from any situation in which a person dies as a result of someone else’s recklessness or negligence. We commonly see claims from the following situations:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Brain injuries
- Premises liability accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Truck accidents
How Evidence is Collected to Support Your Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death cases can become very complex, particularly when working to determine liability. Investigations into these cases will be extensive. However, exactly how evidence collected will vary depending on the cause of the decedent’s death. For example, gathering evidence in the aftermath of a wrongful death caused by a car accident will certainly look different than gathering evidence after a medical mistake causes a fatality.
It is important to understand that family members and personal representatives of the deceased will not have the resources needed to conduct a complete investigation into these incidents. However, when these individuals work with a skilled San Jose wrongful death lawyer, the attorney can use their resources to conduct a complete investigation and gather all of the evidence required. An attorney and work through the court system to issue subpoenas to gather evidence that is otherwise not immediately available.
How Are Damages Divided Between Multiple Heirs?
California law stipulates that only one wrongful death action is allowed to be filed for a particular death. This means that every person who is able to recover compensation as a result of the decedent’s death must file under the same claim. In California, the surviving spouse, domestic partner, parents, or children of the deceased are allowed to file a claim.
It is reasonable to understand that every person close to the deceased will have suffered as a result of the death. However, properly determining who gets what after a case reaches a successful conclusion can be challenging. In these situations, the heirs of the deceased really have two options regarding the division of wrongful death compensation amounts:
- Find a way to peacefully divide the compensation amongst themselves
- Take the situation to the court system
The state of California generally lets families who receive wrongful death compensation decide how to distribute the proceeds amongst themselves. This could include a decision to distribute the compensation into equal shares. In some cases, families may decide to divide the money based on certain criteria, including paying the most to the person who is perceived to have suffered the most as a result of the death. This could also include paying the person who is having the most financial problems. As long as every party agrees to how the proceeds are divided, the state of California will not need to be involved.
If family members disagree about how to appropriately share the proceeds of a wrongful death claim, it may be necessary for a lawsuit to be filed. When the court considers how to distribute these funds, they will consider many factors, including the following:
- The financial needs of each claimant
- Future expected losses of each claimant
- Expenses that each claimant has already paid
- Pain and suffering experienced by each claimant
Compensatory Damages vs. Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Compensatory damages awarded to family members or the estate of the deceased generally fall into two categories – economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to the value of the financial losses resulting from the death as well as contributions that the deceased would have provided to the survivors had they lived. This can include the following:
- Medical, funeral, and burial expenses related to the death
- Loss of the decedent’s expected earnings
- Loss of benefits the decedent would have provided, including medical coverage or pension plans
- Loss of inheritance caused by the death
- The value of goods and services the decedent would have provided had they lived
Non-economic damages are more immeasurable because they do not necessarily have an exact dollar amount. In general, these include the following:
- Survivors’ mental anguish or pain and suffering
- The loss of care, guidance, protection, advice, training, and nurturing the deceased would have provided
- The loss of companionship, society, and love of the deceased
- Loss of consortium for the deceased’s spouse
Aside from these compensatory damages, it is possible for survivors or the estate of the deceased to receive punitive damages. Punitive damages are reserved for situations where the conduct of the defendant in the case was determined to be especially egregious. In other words, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant was grossly negligence or acted intentionally when they caused the death of the deceased. Punitive damages are not going to be awarded in every wrongful death case.
Schedule a Free Consultation Today
The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim under normal circumstances in California is two years, starting on the date of death. San Jose enjoys an affluent and thriving economy. Many wrongdoers will try to make their poor decisions go away with low-ball settlements couched as great offers. Before you agree to any settlement terms, reach out to our San Jose personal injury attorneys for a free case evaluation. We will help you explore your legal options for recovery and calculate the recovery amount you truly deserve for your losses, as well as hold the responsible party accountable for their actions.
For more information about wrongful death claims in San Jose and legal advice during this difficult time, call our office at (415) 889-2919.
Our personal injury law firm serves clients in San Jose and all over Northern California, including Santa Clara County, the San Francisco Bay Area, Concord, Fremont, Richmond, Pleasanton, and Sacramento.