Fatal Accident Attorneys in Bakersfield
Fighting for Your Compensation, Providing Support
When you’ve faced serious challenges, you probably have found that the best people to turn to are those who understand what you’re going through and who truly care for you. At Rodriguez & Associates, our Bakersfield wrongful death lawyers never forget the emptiness and sense of being alone that we go through in trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. And, knowing that the wrongdoer is trying to avoid responsibility for his or her bad choices just adds salt to the wound. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, contact a Bakersfield wrongful death attorney.
Taking the Time to Understand Your Feelings and Your Needs
Our lawyer team and our support staff have a long history of bonding with our clients and providing assistance that one recent client described as “truly miraculous.”
At the same time, we realize that part of helping you is also to fight effectively for the full compensation you need and deserve. With decades of Bakersfield personal injury and wrongful death legal experience, we are highly skilled at negotiating with and litigating against insurance companies and in pursuing the highest possible award following fatal accidents.
When one person injures or harms another through some sort of negligence, any resulting lawsuit falls within the purview of personal injury law. When a person dies as the result of a negligent act, the surviving loved ones may be able to file a claim for wrongful death to pursue compensation. Wrongful death claims in California are a bit different from personal injury lawsuits, so it’s important to know how to file a wrongful death claim, who can file one, and what type of damages someone may collect from such a claim.
It’s important not to conflate wrongful death and homicide. Homicide is the willful killing of another person and is a criminal case. A wrongful death claim is a civil action. The defendant may not have intended to harm or kill anyone, but if their negligent or irresponsible actions contributed to someone’s death, they can and should be held accountable. Nothing can bring your loved one back, but you deserve to receive fair financial compensation for your suffering and loss.
Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths
Wrongful deaths are tragic events, often resulting from negligent or intentional actions. These incidents not only cause emotional turmoil but also raise the need for legal redress. Knowing the common causes of wrongful deaths can guide families in identifying whether they have a potential claim; in general, if your loved one could have pursued a personal injury lawsuit had they survived the incident, your family likely has grounds for legal action.
Below are some incidents that often lead to wrongful death claims in California:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Pedestrian incidents
- Heavy equipment accidents
- Crushing incidents in industrial settings
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Falls from heights
- Fires and explosions in buildings
- Aviation accidents, including plane and helicopter crashes
- Boating and watercraft accidents
- Electrical accidents and electrocutions
- Toxic chemical exposures
- Medical malpractice incidents
- Work-related accidents
- Assaults and acts of violence
- Product malfunctions and defects
Compensation in Bakersfield Wrongful Death Cases
In California, compensation for wrongful death cases is categorized into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover tangible losses like financial support from the deceased, loss of expected gifts or benefits, funeral and burial expenses, and the value of household services the deceased would have provided.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, include intangible losses such as the loss of:
- Moral support
- Sexual relations
The value of these damages can vary significantly based on the specifics of your loved one’s case, often reaching substantial amounts. To accurately estimate the potential settlement, it is important to work with a Bakersfield wrongful death lawyer who can assess these damages and determine what your family is entitled to claim.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim can’t be filed by just anyone. Only certain individuals with particular relationships to the deceased can do so. In the state of California, the deceased individual’s spouse, domestic partner, or children can file. If there are no such relations, California law dictates that anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession” can file the claim. This may extend to the deceased’s parents, siblings, or other relatives.
In some cases, people who were financially dependent on the decedent can file a wrongful death claim. Putative spouses (a spouse in every sense but the legal sense, usually due to an existing marriage) and their children and stepchildren may also file wrongful death claims if they are able to prove they were financially reliant on the deceased.
Steps to Take in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Navigating a wrongful death lawsuit requires a series of deliberate and informed steps. From consultation to the final settlement, each phase plays a crucial role in the pursuit of justice:
- Hire the Right Lawyer: Your first step should be to schedule a consultation with a lawyer who represents families in wrongful death lawsuits. They bring expertise in relevant laws and procedures, ensuring that your claim follows California’s requirements. Their guidance also offers peace of mind, allowing you to grieve without the added stress of legal proceedings.
- Open an Investigation into the Death: Next, your attorney will launch an investigation into the death’s circumstances. This may involve examining medical records, consulting experts, or reviewing accident reports to establish negligence or fault. A thorough investigation lays the foundation for a strong legal case.
- Identify Potentially Liable Parties: After the investigation, your lawyer will help pinpoint the liable party. Determining who is responsible depends on the incident. This could be a healthcare provider in medical malpractice, a driver in traffic accidents, or a manufacturer in product liability cases.
- Initiate Settlement Negotiations: After valuing the claim, your lawyer may negotiate with the liable party’s insurer. These negotiations aim to reach a fair settlement, reflecting the full extent of damages incurred due to the wrongful death.
- File the Lawsuit: If negotiations fail, the next step is to formally file a lawsuit. This involves submitting a detailed complaint to the court, outlining the case’s specifics and the sought compensation.
- Engage in Litigation: Litigation encompasses the discovery process, pre-trial procedures, possible mediation, and, if necessary, trial. This phase can vary in length and complexity, depending on the case’s details.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit is set to two years from the date of the decedent’s passing. What this means is that you will most likely lose the right to file a Bakersfield wrongful death lawsuit after that two-year period. Depending on the situation at hand, there may be factors that extend the time limit within which a wrongful death suit may be filed. One of these exceptions is known as the discovery rule. The discovery rule states that the two-year statute of limitations does not take effect until the decedent’s family members are made aware of their death. Our wrongful death lawyers in Bakersfield can help you explore your legal options and pursue a lawsuit within the appropriate time limit if that’s the course of action you decide to take.
Wrongful death claims differ from personal injury cases in many ways, but the types of damages the plaintiff can collect are very similar. A successful wrongful death claim may award the following to the plaintiff(s):
- Compensation for medical bills for the decedent’s final injury or illness
- Funeral expenses
- Lost income: This may include the time the decedent lost from work prior to their death following the final injury or illness, and sometimes includes potential income the decedent could have earned in the future.
- The surviving family members may receive compensation for the value of the services provided by the deceased, lost financial support, and loss of love, companionship, guardianship, affection, guidance, and attention.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, a wrongful death claim may result in a sizable settlement for the plaintiffs. Recently, California witnessed a record-breaking wrongful death settlement in the form of $8.3 million awarded to the offspring of Martin Harrison, who was killed by deputies at the Santa Rita Jail in August 2010. Harrison had been suffering severe alcohol withdrawal, but the jail staff refused him proper treatment. The resulting delirium caused hallucinations, and deputies ultimately beat him to death.
Corizon Health, Inc., was responsible for providing health care services to the jail, and the company allowed licensed vocational nurses to perform assessments that only registered nurses are permitted to administer under California state law. This is a prime example of negligence contributing to a person’s death, and the settlement serves to discourage future corporate irresponsibility.
Know Your Options
When considering a wrongful death claim, you undoubtedly have enough to worry about without concerning yourself with legal entanglements. These claims can be difficult to navigate, but retaining the services of an accomplished and professional Bakersfield wrongful death lawyer will make the process less stressful, so you and your family can mourn while justice is served for your loved one. Contact an attorney if you believe the circumstances surrounding a loved one’s death constitute a wrongful death case and we will strive to recover financial damages on your behalf.
Leading Causes of Wrongful Death in California
At the law firm of Rodriguez & Associates, we are prepared to fiercely pursue justice for your loved one. Some of the situations that may lead to a wrongful death lawsuit in Bakersfield include:
- Car accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- A surgical error
- A defective product
- Medical malpractice
- A workplace accident
Skilled and Knowledgeable in Wrongful Death Law and Litigation
Negotiated settlements are less expensive and faster than courtroom trials. However, we at Rodriguez & Associates, believe this is no reason to avoid trial when negotiations don’t produce the results our clients deserve. We don’t hesitate to reject an insurance company’s lowball offer and take the case to trial.
Wrongful death can result in a financial crisis for surviving family members, as well as the overwhelming grief that death always leaves behind. We have litigated dozens of cases, and insurance companies know they will face a well-prepared wrongful death attorney team if they fail to make a fair offer. Our approach has led to numerous high-value outcomes. For more information, please contact our law firm.
Car Accident Fatality? Contact One of Our Bakersfield Fatal Accident Attorneys
Rodriguez & Associates is conveniently located in downtown Bakersfield, California. We are available for weekend and evening appointments, charge no fee for consultations and speak both English and Spanish. To contact our law firm, please call (661) 777-7575 or 800-585-9262 Toll Free to schedule a free consultation with one of our Bakersfield wrongful death lawyers today.