What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case

The following damages may be recovered in a wrongful death case in California:

(a) Immediate expenses associated with the wrongful death – these expenses include medical and funeral expenses incurred by the family members of the deceased.
(b) Loss of wrongful death victim’s anticipated earnings in the future until time of retirement or death. The victims employment at the time of incident giving rise to wrongful death, his or her education and earning potential should be evaluated by an expert to determine the future loss of wages and benefits to deceased an the members of his family.
(c) Loss of benefits caused by the victim’s death. This includes pension and retirement benefits, medical insurance and alike. This is particularly applicable if the deceased was making regular contributions through his place of employment or otherwise to a retirement, pension of insurance fund.
(d) Compensation for pain and suffering and mental anguish to the survivors. The closeness of the relationships of the deceased to his family members is evaluated and different evidence is considered. Was the victim of wrongful death the only child who left parents without other posterity or are there other siblings who “mitigate” the loss? How often did the victim see and keep in touch with his family? etc.
(e) Loss of care, protection, companionship to the survivors – if the victim took care of his children or elders prior to the incident giving rise to wrongful death claim – their loss of care will also be included in the general recovery of damages in the wrongful death action.
(f) Punitive damages – additional recovery to punish the defendant who caused wrongful death if the incident was caused with ill intent and/or malice.

If you have any questions regarding handling a wrongful death claim in San Francisco and throughout Northern California, feel free to contact us to discuss.

Do you need to be represented by a personal injury lawyer?

One of the first questions that a person who is injured in an auto accident asks himself is whether he should handle the claim himself or retain an injury lawyer. And… if to hire a lawyer, how to find the right one – how to find an honest, aggressive legal professional who will obtain fair compensation and do a thorough job representing you? Choosing a lawyer can be a challenging task, especially in San Francisco, where there are literally hundreds and hundreds of personal injury lawyers.

Generally, a small accident with minimal property damages and mild injuries from which you completely recover does not justify hiring an attorney unless the third-party insurance company of the driver at fault simply denies liability. Otherwise, if you document your injuries, medical treatment and loss of wages well, you should be able to obtain fair compensation in your insurance settlement without the necessity of paying anywhere between 25% and 40% of your recovery to the attorney.

However, if you suffered a serious injury to one or more parts of your body, which is likely to have residual effects in the future or possibly for the rest of your life which has and will affect various aspects of your life and your ability to enjoy the typical social and professional activities, it is in your best interest to hire a reputable, knowledgeable, personal injury lawyer for a number of compelling reasons:

  1. Assessing your injury claim. An experienced personal injury attorney will help you understand the legal issues involved in your specific personal injury claim. Is the injury serious? Is it a permanent or temporary injury? Who was at fault? Was there an uninsured or underinsured motorist involved? Is there any third party responsibility? Do you have pain and suffering? Should you try to negotiate with the insurer yourself? Do you have to accept his settlement offer? Do you know what your case is worth (the insurance company does and won’t tell you)? A good lawyer will tell you whether it makes sense to sue in small claims court, to sue for a larger amount in state court or to settle out of court.
  2. Obtaining additional evidence, information and reports. A good personal injury attorney will know what kinds of evidence to look for (i.e., medical and vocational evidence, police reports, etc.) and will investigate and interview potential witnesses for statements to gather all the necessary records and other evidence to prove the extent and the gravity of your injuries and to prove liability of the other party of it’s in dispute.
  3. Provide legal education to find a possible shortcut to resolving your injury claim. If representing yourself works better for you, consider using an attorney as a legal coach to help you (1) understand the personal injury law that applies to your case; (2) find the evidence that best supports your case; (3) understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of your claim; (4) understand the litigation process and customs unique to your local courts; (5) draft or review paperwork; (6) identify opportunities for a settlement to your personal injury claim; or (7) represent you if at some point you feel you can no longer go it alone.
  4. Negotiate. If there is an unresolved dispute, there will be negotiations with a claim adjuster who is a professional negotiator. You’d be wise to hire an attorney to negotiate on your behalf and to protect your interests, as both insurance companies and insurance defense lawyers take the arguments of a lawyer much more seriously than those of a lay person who is trying to handle his own injury claim.
  5. Represent you in court. An experienced lawyer can help you file a personal injury lawsuit against the party with whom you have a dispute. If your opponent has a lawyer, then by all means, you need to get one as well.
  6. Relieving you of the hassle associated with handling your own injury claim – your most important job after being involved in an injury accident is making sure that your recover and get back to the normal course of your life. From the moment you hire an attorney, you are relieved of the trouble of handling many of the issues associated with your claim, as most, if not all, the work will be done by your lawyer.

So, the bottom line is this: if your injuries are insignificant, you didn’t miss a lot of time from work and the insurance company being reasonable with you, then you should settle your claim and move on with your life.

If your injuries are serious and require careful treatment and evaluation and are likely to affect your future, it is highly recommended that you retain a personal injury lawyer to represent your interests, to negotiate on your behalf and possibly fight for a fair recovery in court.

California Accident Injury Lawyer: Punitive Damages in an Accident Injury Claim in California

Punitive damages are awarded against a party to a wrongdoing, who committed the act with ill intent and malice. In other words, a party who intentionally causes harm and injury may be sued for, among other damages, punitive damages. These damages can constitute a significant portion of the recovery in an injury claim, in large part because the whole purpose of punitive damages is to punish the intentional wrongdoer or “teach a lesson”

Generally, however, a victim in an auto accident, motorcycle crash, or other injury accident, is not entitled to recover punitive damages because most the injury accidents are caused by ordinary negligence  – failure to act as a reasonable prudent person under the circumstances.

However, in some injury cases, claiming punitive damages would be appropriate. One of the accident injury claims I have recently handled in San Francisco involved a situation where my client “cut” in front of another driver after passing an intersection. The other driver then followed my client and crashed into his vehicle after my client was already parked, after which a verbal altrication which escalated to physical violence took place. It is obvious from the facts of the accident that the wrongdoer collided into my client on purpose. Thus, the award of punitive damages will be appropriate and will likely significantly increase my client’s recovery.

San Francisco personal injury accident checklist – document your pain and suffering

Gathering evidence, talking to police and witnesses, taking photographs and making sure that you organize your paperwork properly are the last things in your mind when you are involved in an auto accident and suffer serious injuries. However, sooner or later – the issue of being compensated for your injuries and damages will become relevant. And the more serious the injuries are that one sustains in an auto accident, the higher the medical bills are, the greater the loss of wages is, and thus – the greater the overall financial loss on a person is. Thus, if you want to make sure that you are ultimately compensated for your injuries and pain and suffering, you will have to keep track of the facts, and documentation and the parties involved.

The Accident

Driver information – obtain and exchange information with all other drivers and make sure to get their names, license plate numbers and driver license numbers, insurance company name and policy number as well as their current address.

Photographs – photograph the damages done to your car as well as other vehicles at the scene of the incident and photograph you injuries (bruising, and other visible injuries) before they start healing. Obviously, it’s a good idea to always have a digital or a Polaroid camera in your car. However, even if you don’t have one, chances are that if your accident occurred in the City of San Francisco, there might a drug store within walking distance where you can buy a camera, and it would be a very good idea to do so to preserve evidence as soon as possible.

Police Report – the San Francisco police is often reluctant to come out to the scene of the incident, unless one or more parties were seriously injured. Call the San Francisco Police Department if you were injured and demand that they arrive and take down the traffic collision report. Make sure to get a report slip, so that you can order the report later from their office.

Witnesses – do not hesitate to approach people who have or might have witnessed your accident. Their testimony or simple declaration (a statement with a signature on a paper) may prove to be crucial in a case of disputed liability. San Francisco residents are known for their desire to help and step up to the plate when they witness a traumatic injury accident, so you should not feel that approaching and asking potential witnesses for their information would be inappropriate.

Medical Treatment – if you feel that you have suffered a serious injury do not hesitate to go to the emergency room. You might be discouraged by ER treatment in San Francisco if you do not have health insurance. However, this should not be your concern at the moment when receiving prompt medical attention, taking your x-rays and getting pain relief medication is crucial to your future health and well being. Don’t worry about medical bills. There are different ways to handle them later, one of which is hiring a an injury lawyer in San Francisco who will place the bills on “hold” until your claim is settled and who will later negotiate with the medical providers to reduce your obligations.

After the Accident

Medical Treatment – log all the office visits, prescriptions, over the counter medications, medical treatment, chiropractic treatment, physical treatment and any other medical help your received from the date of the accident.

Lost Work Time / School Time – keep track of the days you were absent from work and for which your employer did not compensate you and the days you weren’t able to attend school because of your pain and injuries.

Photographs – continue to take photographs of your injuries, to show the healing process and write the date on the back of each photo.

Witnesses – contact them for a written statement before too much time lapses.

Pain, discomfort, emotional distress, fatigue, tenderness, inconvenience – keep a daily log of your experiences, documenting how the injuries have interfered with your daily life and relationship.

It is impossible to fully protect yourself from being involved and being injured in an auto accident, especially in San Francisco, where the drivers are known for their aggressive nature and where so many out-of-towners and tourists are driving and often do not rally know where they are going, creating dangerous situations on the road. However, it is in your power to make sure that you are prepared for such an event and you protect your rights and future financial well being.

California Injury Law: Pain and suffering compensation in an accident

There are two broad categories of damages available in a personal injury claims in California: Economic and Non-Economic. Compensation for pain and suffering fall into the non-economic category and are often the most controversial part of any auto accident case, partly because they are not easily defined or quantified, and partly because they can make up a very substantial part of any injured party’s overall recovery and in many cases can have a much greater value than the economic damages such as medical treatment expenses, wage loss, etc. The following is a break-down of the types of harm covered under economic and non-economic damages:

In auto accident cases, economic or general damages may include:

  • Medical expenses – past and future
  • Lost wages – past and future
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of ability to provide household services
  • Damage to real property (i.e., a car hits a house)
  • Loss of use of real property
  • Damage to personal property (your car, for example)
  • Loss or destruction of personal property
  • Damage to personal property having a special value (i.e., family photos)
  • Loss of use of personal property
  • Lost profits

The non-economic or special damages may include:

  • Continuing physical pain and discomfort while performing typical daily activities such as prolonged standing, sitting, and driving.
  • Mental suffering, including fear of driving or using any kind of transportation on the road, inability to focus, insomnia, loss of appetite and eating disorders.
  • Emotional distress – stress, anxiety, depression associated with the injury incident.
  • Loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship and services and even inability to have healthy sexual relationship also known as alienation of affection)

California operates under a tort liability system that governs how pain and suffering claims are to be litigated. In short, the tort liability system allows the jury to decide, exclusively, the amount of damages to be paid to someone for a car accident injury.

Injuries and accidents involving children in residential areas

It seems that no matter what precautions the apartment and condominium communities take to make their are safer for pedestrians and bicyclist, people and especially small children continue being hit and severally injured by vehicles entering and exiting residential areas, even in gated communities. Posted speed limits, highlighted crosswalks, speed bumps and signs warning the driver that children might might be crossing the street unexpectedly  – all these precautions are of little help if the driver is speeding through the area, assuming that no one will be crossing the street or running out in the quiet residential area, and the child who is used to feeling safe runs out or rides his bicycle out unexpectedly onto the street to only be violently hit by that car.

In most such accidents the driver is found liable for speeding and unsafe driving under conditions. However, regardless of whose fault the accident is, it is very important to explain and remind children that the area surrounding their house (no matter how suburban that area is) can be just as dangerous as any busy highway. In fact, it is likely to be more dangerous, because the drivers don’t expect any dangerous situations in a quite neighborhood and therefore don’t pay as much attention to the road and often feel at liberty to speed through.

You cannot prevent the drivers from not being as careful as you should be, but you can certainly make sure that your children are fully aware of the potential dangers posed by drivers on the streets immediately outside their house.