The sudden and unexpected death of a parent, spouse or child is a devastating event in the life of any person. When that is produced by the negligence or carelessness of another person or company, or as a result of a defective drug or device, or an unsafe property, the results can be financially devastating as well as emotionally traumatizing. When death is not from natural causes but due to the fault or wrongful acts of another person, company or corporation, you may be able to receive some compensation and justice with help from our award-winning San Francisco wrongful death lawyers.
At times like this, families turn to the San Francisco law firm that has represented Californians throughout the state in major important wrongful death cases. The lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly and Schonberger have handled wrongful death claims on behalf of innocent survivors for more than 50 years. We can help make sense of the legal and financial aspects of a family’s loss and obtain financial compensation from those responsible.
Defining Wrongful Death in California
From a legal standpoint, wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another person or party. California wrongful death laws apply whether the tragedy occurs right in the home, from dangerous children’s toys or household consumer product, and the workplace from defective equipment, tools or machinery, or on the highways as a result of negligent drivers or defective automobiles. Whether your husband, wife, child parent or other relative died in a work-related accident, from chemical exposure, defective machinery or equipment or a construction hazard such as a scaffolding accident, the skilled wrongful death lawyers of the Walkup law firm are available to consult at no charge and to help prosecute wrongdoers..
In a wrongful death case where the losses caused by negligence, the wrongdoer’s intent in his or her actions does not matter so much as the legal result of that action. Negligent conduct does not require ill will or evil intent. What must be proved is that the wrongdoer failed to act with reasonable care, that amount of care that a reasonable person would use to avoid injury or death to himself or to other persons. Where there is negligence, there is never a true “accident”, if a death would have been avoided through the use of reasonable care, then the offending person has a legal responsibility to pay for their actions and the damages they have caused.
Wrongful deaths arising from negligent behavior can occur a number of different ways, from car accidents to medical malpractice, from accidental drowning in an unguarded or unsafe swimming pool to unfortunate workplace incidents where improperly maintained machinery fails or toxic exposure occurs.
In San Francisco, injuries (both intentional and unintentional) are the leading cause of death for teenagers and younger adults aged 15 – 44. Overall, unintentional injuries are the 5th leading cause of death for San Franciscans and San Francisco county has a higher age-adjusted unintentional death rate than the rest of California.
Fatal Car Accidents
Traffic accidents are a serious problem that only seems to grow every year – in 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 35,092 fatalities. This marked a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year – the largest single year percentage increase in nearly 50 years – and an 8.8 percent increase in fatalities in crashes where distraction was a primary factor. Motor vehicle accidents are the third leading cause of death for people in San Francisco aged 15 – 24 and the 5th leading cause for those aged 25-34.
Motor Vehicle Fatalities
Although the number of motor vehicle fatalities is on a downward trend, these accidents claim the lives of thousands of people every year. Car accident fatalities can be a textbook case of wrongful death: situations in which someone’s negligence or poor skill behind the wheel resulted in the deaths of many. If the other driver is at fault, the deceased’s family may be eligible for compensation of economic and non-economic damages. This includes medical bills, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and any wages lost as a result of the death.
Medical professionals are almost always well-equipped to deal with the fast-paced, life-or-death atmosphere of the hospital. However, cases of negligence and medical malpractice regularly occur in medical facilities across the nation. In extreme cases, patients can die due to the negligent actions of a doctor, nurse, or other licensed medical professional. In such a case, you may be eligible for a wrongful death claim.
If your family member died at the hands of a medical professional’s negligence, you have the legal right to recover any financial damages as a result of the wrongful death. This includes any and all medical bills and burial/funeral expenses. Additionally, you can also request compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent before their death, pain and suffering of the loved ones due to the death, any loss of past and future wages, and loss of consortium.
Medical Malpractice Top 15 States
In wrongful deaths due to medical malpractice, the owners of the medical facility may be held liable as well, especially if they had a duty of care to uphold that ensured the hospital retained a safe environment for everyone.
Fatal Workplace Accidents
It’s not something we typically think of, but workplace accidents are serious affairs that can even lead to death. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 4,836 workers were killed on the job in 2015. About one in five of these deaths were in the construction industry, a career path notorious for its occupational hazards. Where a construction site injury is due to the fault of someone other than the deceased’s employer, such as the maker of a tool, a scaffold, a ladder or a piece of machinery, there may be a right to bring a wrongful death case.
Where the cause of death is the deceased persons employer’s negligence, there is no right to bring a wrongful death case in California, and the family of the deceased is limited to a recovery under the Worker’s Compensation laws.
The leading causes of death in the construction industry are known as the “Fatal Four,” which accounted for 64.2 percent of construction worker deaths in 2015. This includes:
- Struck by Object
- Caught-in/between (situations in which workers were caught in equipment or objects, or otherwise struck or crushed in collapsing objects)
In these kinds of circumstances, if the fatal injuries are caused by someone other than a coemployee or the employer, there may be a right of action against the wrongdoer or the wrongdoer’s employer.
Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Collisions
Although cars have become safer through the use of seat belts, airbags and computerized assistive technology, the frequency of automobile versus pedestrian fatal collisions is on the increase as is the frequency of automobile versus bicyclist fatal collisions.
Vehicle drivers are obligated to keep a proper lookout for pedestrians, not just in crosswalks, but anywhere pedestrians may be found along the roadway. Similarly, automobile drivers are required by law to keep an eye out for bicyclists, to give them the right away, to not cut them off, and to treat them just as they would treat another vehicle-motorized or not.
With the increasing use of bicycles on our city and county streets, roadways and highways, the frequency of bicycle related wrongful death cases is on the rise. Where your loved one died as the result of a bicycle-related accident, a law firm that specializes in bicycle related wrongful death cases is key. The Walkup Law Office has extensive experience in handling claims on behalf of the survivors of those killed in bicycling accident collisions.
When consumers use products, they are entitled to have them work safely. Under California’s product liability laws, a consumer who sustains fatal injury using any type of product: a saw, a ladder, an automobile, a home appliance, a heater, a stove, is entitled to have the consumer product work without producing any type of harm or injury.
Flaws in defection motor vehicles may also give rise to a wrongful death claim. Where a passenger or driver in an automobile dies is the result of an otherwise survivable collision, because the vehicle suffered a blowout, steering problem, break failure, or loss of vertical stability, survivors may have the right to bring a lawsuit against the makers of the automobile or the component parts which failed.
When a California citizen someone suffers a fatal injury as a result of a product malfunction, his or her survivors may file a wrongful death suit to recover compensation for any damages. It does not matter if the product in question has been recalled or if no government action has been taken. Determining whether product is or is not defective is a matter for a jury in a civil law case.
Both public and private pool owners owe a duty of care to swimmers. A wrongful death claim can be made if the drowning accident was caused due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else in maintaining a swimming pool or supervising swimmers.
This can happen if someone else physically caused the drowning, or if the parties responsible for the pool, lake, or beach provided care that was considerably lower than their standard duty of care. For example, if a child drowns at a public pool, the lifeguards that were on duty at the time may be liable for the death if they were negligent, displayed carelessness, or were simply ignorant to the situation. Another example would be if a child drowns in a pool due to being submerged by the suction in a pool’s drain. In that case, the party responsible for operating the pool may be liable for wrongful death.
Wrongful Death Laws in CA
California has unique laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim, what damages you can recover, and any statutes of limitations on making wrongful death claims.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in California? Because the wrongful death process is so delicate, only specific people may file a claim – typically only the decedent’s surviving family. This includes:
- A surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Any surviving children
- Any surviving family members, including parents and siblings.
If the deceased person had any dependents that weren’t direct familial descendants, such as step-children, they are also entitled to file a wrongful death claim.
What compensation can be recovered in California? The following damages can be recovered in a wrongful death claim:
- Any and all medical expenses to care for the decedent right before his or her death.
- Any post-life expenses, such as burial and funeral funds.
- Lost wages, that members of the family who were dependent upon the deceased person could have expected to receive during the deceased person’s life including any estimated earnings the decedent would have accumulated were they still alive.
- Damages for loss of financial support.
- Damages for loss of love, care, comfort, companionship, physical and moral support, and intimate sexual relations in the case of a lost spouse.
How long does a person have to file a wrongful death claim? The statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in California in a case not involving medical malpractice is two years from the date of death. Medical malpractice cases have their own statutes of limitation which are shorter. In a non-medical malpractice case the surviving errors generally have two years from the date of death to file a claim, or else any and all potential legal rights to a financial recovery may be forever lost. Because the statute of limitations is short, it is important that surviving husbands, wives, children, parents and siblings immediately consult with a skilled wrongful death lawyer if they have any question in their mind as to whether a lawsuit may be justified under the circumstances of their loved one’s death.
How to Start a Wrongful Death Claim in California
If you believe that your loved one perished due to negligence, carelessness, or recklessness, it’s important to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Talking to a wrongful death attorney will give you the guidance and clarity you need to make smart decisions regarding recovery of damages.
You need an attorney to help you through these difficult times, the offices of Walkup, Melodia, Kelly, and Schoenberger can assist you. We have more than 50 years of experience in personal injury and wrongful death, and we have the most million-dollar settlements of any firm in Northern California.
Not only do we have the experience, but we also have the resources to investigate your loved one’s wrongful death thoroughly, so you can maximize your compensation. We know what it takes to establish liability on the part of property owners, private employers and public entities. Our attorneys are also familiar with the special considerations required when seeking damages for the death of a newborn or the loss of a child.
Contact Us For Dedicated, Compassionate Representation
At the Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger law firm, we are fully committed to caring for the survivors of wrongful death victims. Get the justice and financial support you deserve – contact us today for a free consultation. Make an appointment by calling us at (415) 889-2919, or contact the Walkup firm online.
“They left no stone unturned in their investigation and gathering of evidence. [The firm has] a lot of integrity and were very honest and real with us. They have a lot of compassion and even reduced the fees that they took in the end. That was huge in my book.” – Sarah W.