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Components of a Wrongful Death Claim

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Very specific statutes govern wrongful death claims. If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, the first step is determining whether the circumstances of your loved one’s death meet the legal definition.

The term “wrongful death” applies to a death that resulted from negligence, recklessness or an unlawful act committed by another person. In California, claimants may receive two different types of compensation: economic and non-economic. Economic damages encompass things like financial support and funeral expenses. Non-economic damages include compensation for grief, mental anguish and loss of society and comfort.

If you’re considering a wrongful death claim, keep in mind that it must be filed within two years of the death, in accordance with the California statute of limitations. Typically, only family members may file the claim, but other parties (such as common-law spouses) may file a claim if they can prove they were financially dependent.

Once you’ve decided to file, the next step is choosing an attorney. Keep in mind that you will be working closely with this person for some time, so choose someone with whom you feel comfortable. It’s also important to choose a law firm that has successfully dealt with similar cases in the past and can easily cover the upfront costs of things like lawyer fees, paralegals and other services.

Once you have established a working relationship with an attorney, there are several more steps to take. A personal representative for the estate must be appointed, and the responsible individual or entity must be determined. Because defendants often attempt to stall settlements for as long as possible, it is important that your attorney maintain constant pressure to ensure the settlement is processed as quickly as possible.

If you believe that the circumstances of your loved one’s death constitute a valid wrongful death claim, consult with an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney right away.

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