A wrongful death is heartbreaking. It can be difficult to make the right legal choices in this troubling time. Here’s what to know to get started in the process of defending your legal rights.

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What if I'm Not an Immediate Relative?

Generally speaking, wrongful death suits may be raised only by a representative of the deceased person or that person’s estate. Immediate family members are most likely to bring such a suit, followed by distant family, domestic partners and financial dependents.

According to the Department of Industrial Relations, a spouse, children or other dependents are eligible to receive death benefits if an employee dies from a work-related injury or illness. This includes burial benefits, as well as compensation until a dependent is of 18 years of age (or life if the dependent is disabled).

Although you may not be able to sue under the laws relating to wrongful death, that does not mean you have no options. This depends on the circumstances. For example, if you were in a car accident in which a friend died, you can still sue the other driver.

As a witness to a fatal accident, it may be possible to make a claim for emotional distress.

Common Incidents that Lead to Wrongful Death Cases

Almost any situation where misconduct or negligence contributed to death can lead to a wrongful death suit. The form of wrongful death the public is most familiar with is medical malpractice. Other common claims in San Diego include:

  • Automotive or air travel accident;

  • Occupational exposure to toxins;

  • Death during a supervised activity;

  • Death caused by criminal wrongdoing.

Some groups, such as construction workers, are at significant risk of dying in a work-related accident. They may be eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits, which can be collected by dependents according to specific rules.

What to Do After the Wrongful Death of a Loved One

A wrongful death is enormously difficult for anyone. As a plaintiff, there are steps you should take, but it may be difficult to find the focus and energy. Your basic duty is to document the facts as best you can. For example, if there was a car accident, you should obtain a copy of the police report and get statements from witnesses.

It is crucial to ascertain the facts of a case because they influence how much you can receive in damages, monetary compensation from the wrongdoer. No amount of money can replace a life, but factors like medical expenses, burial expenses and the deceased’s earning power influence how much may be at stake during a claim.

As soon as you suspect a wrongful death, you should contact an attorney. A wrongful death lawyer is especially trained to build your case while making the process as easy as possible for you. An attorney can request information from the defendant and others in the case that you might not be able to access yourself.

What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California?

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 355.1 establishes a deadline of two years from the date of death. This applies to virtually all situations outside medical malpractice. Individual communities may have specific rules for cases involving government employees.

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.5 lays out deadlines for cases involving medical malpractice: Three years from the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs first.

Gerald Brody & Associates

At Gerald Brody & Associates, we understand every needless death is a tragedy. We offer you caring and compassionate support backed by aggressive court representation. Know the benefits you are entitled to, and speak with a professional lawyer today. Gerald Brody will explain to you the complex workers' compensation system and fight for the compensation you deserve if you've suffered the loss of a loved one. To find out more, please contact us today.