Wrongful Death




Wrongful DeathWhen a person loses a loved one, there is a void created by that loss. An empty spot, that was once filled by a person who made the world a better place is difficult enough, but when the death is caused by the wrongdoing of another, it can make the loss create an entirely different effect upon those experiencing it.

The lawyers at ELLIS RICCOBONO, LLP have handled and tried numerous wrongful death cases, achieving astonishing results for their clients. They have done so with an approach of compassion towards the client and with an unparalleled tenacity to hold to account those responsible.


Types of Accidents Leading to Wrongful Death

In the event of losing a loved one, understanding the circumstances that led to their untimely passing is crucial. Wrongful death can occur in various scenarios, each with its unique complexities. Wrongful death cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Automobile Accidents: The road can be an unpredictable place, and wrongful deaths often result from negligent driving. This includes collisions involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Whether it’s due to distracted driving, speeding, or driving under the influence, we meticulously investigate to hold the responsible parties accountable.
  • Accidental Poisoning: Cases where individuals lose their lives due to accidental ingestion or exposure to toxic substances.
  • Birth Injuries: Cases involving negligence during childbirth that result in the death of a newborn or the mother.
  • Criminal Activity and Violence: Instances where wrongful death is a result of criminal acts, including assault, shootings, and other forms of violence.
  • Dangerous Property Accidents: Accidents occurring on someone else’s property due to unsafe conditions, such as slip and fall accidents, inadequate security, or structural failures.
  • Defective Medical Devices: Cases involving deaths caused by malfunctioning or improperly designed medical devices.
  • Drowning: Fatal incidents occurring in swimming pools, open water, and other aquatic environments due to negligence or unsafe conditions.
  • Fatal Workplace Accidents: Deaths occurring in the workplace that may involve various hazards, such as exposure to harmful substances, falls, machinery accidents, or other unsafe work conditions.
  • Medical Malpractice: Trusting medical professionals with our health and lives, it’s particularly devastating when their negligence leads to a loved one’s death. Cases of wrongful death in medical settings can stem from surgical errors, misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, medication errors, or failure to provide adequate care.
  • Mesothelioma/Asbestos Exposure: Cases where individuals succumb to diseases like mesothelioma because of prolonged asbestos exposure, often in a work environment.
  • Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse: Instances where elderly individuals die due to neglect, abuse, or inadequate care in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
  • Pharmaceutical Negligence: Fatalities resulting from incorrect medication prescriptions, drug interactions, or defective pharmaceutical products.
  • Product Liability: Consumers expect products to be safe for use. Tragically, defective, or poorly designed products can lead to fatal accidents. This includes everything from vehicle malfunctions to hazardous household products.
  • Truck Accidents: Fatal accidents involving commercial trucks, where negligence may include driver fatigue, improper loading, or maintenance issues.
  • Workplace Accidents: Every worker deserves a safe working environment. Yet, fatalities can occur due to unsafe work conditions, lack of proper safety measures, equipment failures, or negligence in supervision and training.


Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases


In California, the law recognizes the profound impact of such a loss and provides avenues for survivors to recover damages. These damages are broadly categorized into economic and non-economic damages.


Economic Damages

Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses that the decedent’s family incurs due to the wrongful death. These include:

  • Loss of Financial Support: This covers the income the deceased would have provided over their lifetime, taking into account their earning capacity, life expectancy, and other financial contributions to the family.
  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: The costs associated with funeral services, burial, and other related expenses are recoverable.
  • Medical Expenses: If the deceased received medical treatment due to the incident before their passing, these costs can be claimed.
  • Value of Household Services: Compensation for the loss of services the deceased provided, such as childcare, home maintenance, and other domestic tasks.


Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate for the intangible losses suffered by the survivors. These are more subjective and include:

  • Loss of Companionship and Love: This covers the emotional and relational loss experienced due to the absence of the loved one.
  • Loss of Guidance and Moral Support: Particularly relevant for children of the deceased, this compensates for the loss of parental guidance and support.
  • Loss of Consortium: For spouses, this includes the loss of marital companionship, affection, and sexual relations.


Calculating Damages

Calculating these damages requires careful consideration of numerous factors, including the deceased’s age, health, life expectancy, earnings, and the circumstances of the survivors. Economic damages are typically calculated based on concrete financial data, while non-economic damages are more subjective and often determined by juries based on the extent of loss suffered by the family.

In wrongful death cases, the pursuit of justice is about more than just financial compensation; it’s about acknowledging the value of the lost life and the impact on those left behind. Our team at ELLIS RICCOBONO, LLP, is dedicated to guiding families through this process with compassion and a deep understanding of the law, ensuring they receive the comprehensive compensation they deserve.


Legal Basis for Wrongful Death Claims

In California, when a death is caused by the negligence, or actions of another, the law permits the heir and/or heirs to seek damages to achieve justice. The law does so by providing a mechanism to compensate those who remain and must live with the loss. As stated by one court, “[t]here are three distinct public policy considerations involved in the legislative creation of a cause of action for wrongful death: ‘(1) compensation for survivors, (2) deterrence of conduct and (3) limitation, or lack thereof, upon the damages recoverable.’” (Barrett v. Superior Court (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 1176, 1185.

Accordingly, the law permits recovery of monetary damages for the value of the love, companionship, affection, society, comfort, care, assistance, advice, moral support, training, guidance, and protection that is lost through the wrongful death of a spouse, parent, child or family member. Factors such as the closeness of a family unit, the depth of their love and affection, and the character of the decedent as kind, attentive, and loving are proper considerations for a jury assessing noneconomic damages. (Soto v. BorgWarner Morse TEC Inc. (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 165, 198−199, 201 [191 Cal.Rptr.3d 263]).

In addition, a person may recover economic damages including:

  • Financial support that the decedent would have contributed,
  • The loss of gifts,
  • Funeral & burial expenses,
  • And the reasonable value of household services that would have been provided.


Recent Legal Changes Affecting Wrongful Death Claims

In cases filed after January 1, 2022, California has expanded the damages available in a claim presented on behalf of the decedent. Prior to the new law going into effect California law limited the damages recoverable in a survival action to the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover had the decedent lived.


Impact of SB 447 on Wrongful Death Claims

After SB 447 revised CCP Section 377.34, it reads “Notwithstanding subdivision (a), in an action or proceeding by a decedent’s personal representative or successor in interest on the decedent’s cause of action, the damages recoverable may include damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement” of the person who ultimately passed. This change in the law is a just one as it helps California catch up with other jurisdictions in the country that have permitted similar access to justice.


FAQ: Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in California

What types of compensation can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit?

Compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit can include economic damages like lost future income, medical and funeral expenses, as well as non-economic damages such as loss of love, companionship, emotional support, and guidance. The specifics depend on the case and the relationship between the claimant and the deceased.


Can I still pursue a wrongful death claim if the responsible party is acquitted in criminal court?

Yes, a wrongful death claim is a civil action independent of criminal proceedings. Even if the responsible party is acquitted or not charged criminally, you can still pursue a civil claim for compensation.


How is compensation divided among multiple claimants in a wrongful death lawsuit?

In cases with multiple claimants, compensation is typically awarded as a lump sum. The family members must then agree on how to divide it. If they cannot reach an agreement, the court may intervene to allocate the funds fairly.


What should I do if I believe I have a wrongful death claim?

If you suspect you have a wrongful death claim, it’s essential to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. They can evaluate your case, guide you through the legal process, and help ensure your rights are protected.

ELLIS RICCOBONO, LLP understands the deep emotional and financial impact that a wrongful death can have on a family. Our approach is not only rooted in legal expertise but also in compassion and a deep sense of responsibility towards our clients. If you have lost a loved one due to any of these tragic circumstances, we are here to guide you through the legal process and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Contact Our Firm to Learn More

If there is no recovery, then there are never any fees or costs to you.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
*Disclaimer: This website is an advertisement as defined by the California Rules of Professional Conduct and the California Business and Professions Code. ELLIS RICCOBONO, LLP is licensed to practice law in the State of California, Hawaii, and Federal Courts, where admitted. In certain cases, we have represented individuals in other states/jurisdictions by way of pro hac vice. The content of this website is intended to convey general information. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship.