At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we represent individuals and families who have lost loved ones due to the careless, reckless, and negligent conduct of others. If someone you love recently passed away, we wish to extend our sincerest condolences and assure you that justice is possible. By filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, you can not only hold the responsible party accountable, but you can also secure the much-needed financial resources you and your family need to heal.
When you have been injured, you don't just need an attorney. You need an advocate.
What Is Wrongful Death?
California personal injury laws define “wrongful death” as the death of an individual person caused by the negligence, wrongful conduct, or default of another. In other words, if someone’s death was the “legal fault” of another person or party, the death is considered wrongful.
In California, wrongful death cases often arise from:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Truck accidents
- Bus accidents
- Drunk driving accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Rideshare (Uber, Lyft, etc.) accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
While these and other accidents are some of the most common grounds for wrongful death claims, such lawsuits can also arise from acts of intentional misconduct, including criminal activity. Surviving family members may have a civil lawsuit against a defendant accused of manslaughter, homicide, or murder, which is a separate legal action from any criminal proceedings that may occur.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
In California, only certain surviving individuals are eligible to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
These individuals include the decedent’s surviving:
- Domestic partner
If there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, child, or grandchild, anyone who would be entitled to inherit some or all of the decedent’s estate through intestate succession may file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. This might include such individuals as the decedent’s surviving parents, legal guardians, siblings, stepchildren, putative spouse, or dependents. Typically, these individuals would need to demonstrate that they were financially dependent on the decedent to be entitled to bring a claim.
Damages in California Wrongful Death Cases
The purpose of filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit is twofold:
- first, to hold the at-fault person or party legally accountable for the death and,
- second, to recover monetary damages.
Although no amount of financial recovery can make up for the loss of human life, surviving family members may find themselves dealing with significant and unexpected financial hardships in the wake of their loved one’s death. A successful settlement or jury verdict can allow these individuals the resources they need to manage these challenges and move forward in the healing process.
In California wrongful death cases, it is possible to recover both economic and non-economic damages. Examples include:
- Medical costs associated with the decedent’s final injuries/illness
- Funeral and/or burial expenses
- Financial support provided by the decedent, including future income
- The value of household services provided by the decedent, including future services
- Lost benefits, gifts, or inheritance the decedent would have provided
- Loss of “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support”
- Loss of consortium/intimacy by a spouse or partner
- Loss of guidance provided by the decedent, including future guidance
At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we strive to help our clients recover the full, fair compensation they are owed. Our wrongful death attorneys in San Francisco offer personalized and compassionate support throughout the legal process and are here to assist you in seeking justice on behalf of your loved one.
How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
In California, the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits is typically two years from the date of death. This means that you only have two years to file a lawsuit after the death of a loved one. If you fail to bring your case within this timeframe, you will almost certainly lose your right to sue the liable party for damages.
Although there are some exceptions, they are rare. At Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, we encourage you to reach out to our San Francisco wrongful death attorneys right away if you believe you may have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. We can immediately begin an investigation and provide clear answers regarding your legal options.
How to Prove Wrongful Death in California
In San Francisco, there are a few things you must prove during a wrongful death case. In general, the basis for countless wrongful death claims is negligence. In California, it is not required that one prove intent to harm but that one's careless or negligent actions led to the wrongful death of someone. With that in mind, here are a few things a wrongful death lawyer in San Francisco can help you prove:
- Duty - The defendant must have owed the decedent a legal duty of care. This is a responsibility of a person to act in a way that a prudent and rational person would in the same or similar circumstances. In essence, people have a duty to drive their car safely on the highway.
- Breach of Duty - Now one must also prove a breach of duty of care, which can refer to any action or omission that a reasonable party most likely would not have committed. For example, this can include negligence or malicious intent to do harm.
- Causation - It's essential to prove that the breach of duty of care directly caused the wrongful death in question. Basically, if this had not happened - the individual would be alive today.
- Damages - It's also critical to prove that a result of the actions led to damages.
A San Francisco wrongful death attorney can help you navigate the difficult waters associated with filing a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one. This can be a sensitive time, and our lawyers understand that.
Choose a Compassionate & Experienced Legal Team
When you turn to Ayala, Morgan & Buzzard, you will be directly connected with your attorney throughout the legal process. We have built our firm on a foundation of trust, honesty, and integrity. Our attorneys prioritize client communication and will keep you informed and updated throughout the legal process.
Most of all, we truly care about you and your family. We are committed to securing the justice you deserve and the compensation you need to heal. There are absolutely no out-of-pocket expenses when you work with our firm; instead, we only collect legal fees if/when we win your case.