Workplace accidents are sadly common. Sometimes, an accident in the workplace ends in a terrible tragedy when a worker loses his or her life on the job. Typically, the family of a deceased worker will be able to seek death benefits through California's workers' compensation system. These benefits often serve as a lifeline for surviving family members, particularly if the deceased worker was the family's sole wage earner or breadwinner.
However, there are two sides to this coin. California's death benefits through workers' compensation can be woefully inadequate when it comes to compensating families for such an irreparable and financially devastating loss. In such cases, surviving family members may have a number of questions, especially if their loved one died on the job because of the negligence of a third party – an individual or entity other than the employer.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If you lost your loved one to a workplace accident, at the very minimum, you may be entitled to workers' compensation death benefits. Depending on the specific circumstances of your loved one's death, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover even more.
An experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer can help you understand the benefits to which you are entitled and can help you secure maximum possible compensation. While we understand that no amount of monetary compensation can bring back your loved one, the compensation you receive can help support your family and secure your financial future. Scrambling to pay bills and struggling to stay afloat financially is the last thing any family needs after a tragic loss.
Steps to File a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim is a civil claim that your family can bring if someone else is responsible for causing your loved one's death. In a work injury case, a third party (someone other than an employer) who caused your loved one's death may involve a general contractor, a subcontractor, a property owner or manufacturer of a defective product.
Hiring a lawyer: If you believe that your loved one was killed as a result of someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, the first step is to retain the services of a wrongful death attorney. If your loved one died on the job, it is best to seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney who is also well-versed in workplace accident cases. It would not be advisable to handle such complex claims on your own. Retaining a lawyer can help you avoid mistakes such as missing filing deadlines and put you in a good position for a favorable outcome.
Parties who can file: Under California law, you can file a wrongful death claim if you are the deceased person's surviving spouse or domestic partner. Other parties who can file include the decedent's children, parents, siblings and in some cases, individuals who are financially dependent on the deceased person. You may need to appoint a personal representative to file the wrongful death claim on your family's behalf.
Compiling evidence: Your wrongful death claim will be much stronger when you have evidence connected to the incident that led to the fatal injury. Your Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can help you with this task. Evidence in work injury cases may include incident reports, coroner's report, medical records, evidence showing lost wages, photographs and/or video from the scene, eyewitness accounts, expert testimony, etc. An experienced lawyer can help compile this evidence and present it in a cohesive manner.
Statute of limitations: In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death settlement is two years from the date of death. However, in cases where the cause of death wasn't apparent when the decedent passed, family members may have some additional time to file. If the wrongful death lawsuit is being filed against a governmental entity, you have only 180 days or six months to file a claim. Once you file a claim and if the public entity denies the claim within 45 days, you will have another six months within which to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court. If a minor is suing for the death of a parent, then, he or she would have until two years from the day they turn 18.
Compensation for Victims' Families
If you have lost a loved one in a workplace accident, you may be able to seek additional compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit, which could pay damages including medical and funeral costs, lost future wages, pain and suffering (of the decedent) and loss of love, care and companionship.
Filing a third-party lawsuit can be a complex process. The experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyers at Greenberg & Ruby have helped families of injured workers seek and obtain maximum compensation for their losses. Call us at (888) 502-2256 to schedule a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.