At Ehline Law Firm our expert lawyers have recovered multiple millions of dollars for satisfied clients. Our wrongful death attorneys help surviving victims when a person is wrongfully killed. That means we help the heirs and beneficiaries get money.
But we don’t stop there. We also lobby congress, write and testify in consumer law matters. Accordingly, wrongful death rights compose a large part of our law practice.
In a nutshell, wrongful death is a sad, negligently caused, non-natural death. First, someone must have passed away. That means all biological functions sustaining life are at an end. So you can’t sue for a death if someone is still in a coma, for example.
To win a wrongful death case the plaintiff must show:
- Defendant’s act caused the death;
- The act was on purpose or by accident;
- Survivors entitled to sue suffered actual loss; (See also “Proving a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit – Step by Step“).
Wrongful Death Case Settlements and Verdicts.
Many firms only take on big cases with clear fault. So naturally, they get landmark verdicts and settlement awards. But the true test of a skilled trial attorney is turning lemons into lemonade.
Accordingly, almost all our cases were rejected by larger firms. What we do is take on the hardest cases and win. Do or die is the ethos that sets us apart from the pack.
Just take a look at some of our amazing results in consumer wrongful death cases.
- Widow v. Insurance Company, in a case where we recovered $4,200,000 for a widow in a truck crash/insurance bad faith matter.
- Hier v. State of California (Caltrans), in which our attorneys won $2,000,000 for the family of a grandmother who perished after her car left the road and tumbled down a cliff.
- Ducket v. Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, in which we $2,024, 761 for the family of a dead defense contractor. He passed away when a routine appendectomy went bad. The defense offer was $50,000. The result was a jury verdict.
- Decedent v. Los Angeles City and County, et al, wherein the plaintiffs won $1.9 million. The claim against the City of Los Angeles for a dangerous condition of public property settled for $1,750,000, but other confidential parties covered part of the risk.
- Clare v. Estate of Clare, in which an auto defect/wrongful death paid out $1,220,000 in our client’s favor.
- Doe v. Automaker in a seatbelt failure that resulted in a death case plaintiff was awarded $1,050,000.
- Rodriguez, et al. v. Osterkamp Farms. In this disputed liability case, attorney Michael Ehline and staff won a fatal industrial accident involving sugar beet harvesting machine. The deceased trucker was awarded $1,037,500.
- Distler v. Redondo Beach Unified School District, in which a cabinet maker earning $15,000 a year was killed by an intoxicated RBUSD employee when the defendant crossed over a center line. His family retrieved $1,000,000.
- Silva v. Los Angeles County MTA. In this disputed liability case, 33-year-old decedent was mentally disabled. He was standing on a southbound Blue Line MTA train platform. All of a sudden, a train came and struck him in the head, killing him. His mother was awarded $875,000.
- Confidential v. Confidential. Here, a 71 yr old slipped and fell outside restroom while it was raining. The family was granted $650,000. (View more case results here).
As seen above, the life of an engineer may be worth more than that of a trucker. So no case is the same. Also, not every relative got along in life. So not all beneficiaries can sue for wrongful death.
So we look deep at the relations. If we can show a loss, we make a case for you. But even if a loss presents itself, you must still show fault of another took the life.
For example, at first glance, starvation, dehydration, or malnutrition may be part of the aging process. But it could also be a homicide. Maybe a war veteran’s suicide seemed unavoidable. But later we may learn neglect at the VA drove this death.
Same goes for pro football players suffering from head injuries. The NFL may be responsible for misrepresenting the safety of helmets. No doubt this could drive a suicide.
What we do is research the facts surrounding the death. Doing things like this has helped us turn lemons into lemonade.
- How Does Ehline Show Actual Loss?
Any accident or trauma that kills is unpleasant. Familial bonds become terminated. And survivors lose familial and social bonds with loved ones. All that love and affection dies with the decedent. A value can be placed on all of this.
After all, survivors face saudade. In other words, they suffer bouts of sorrow, emotional pain and grief. On top of this, many victims have bad depression. The grieving need solitude, compassion and sympathy. This can mean counseling and expensive drugs like Xanax and Prozac.
But people also need money for bills. So there could be economic and intangible loss. These are actual losses. Our staff immediately gets to work gathering evidence. We also explain the evidence gathering process to the family. That way everyone is informed and rights are protected.
How Does Ehline Begin a Wrongful Death Action?
To achieve the ends of justice, a wrongful death action will lie. First we try and settle out of court with the life taker. But if they refuse, we take steps to sue. The lawsuit will set forth factual allegations in a legal pleading. This written application to the court will claim the death was due to the negligence or intentional acts of the defendant(s).
If negligence is presumed under Evidence Code §669 we include this. So we argue the basic allegations in a legal document.
If the complaint fails to plead sufficient facts, it can be dismissed with leave to amend. But we take steps to fully inform the court and make things clear. How do we do this?
In order to withstand a demurrer, the complaint should plead:
The pleading, or “complaint” is usually a paper document formatted for a court. The party names are listed in the caption. The plaintiffs are the parties who sue. So they are decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries. The defendants are the ones plaintiff’s sue. The CACI Jury Instructions have define the death of an adult and death of a child. (See CACI § 3921, 3922.)
At trial, Ehline will argue that defendants were negligent in some way. Even if partial fault lies, all those liable are held to account. In some cases a defendant may strictly be liable for the victim’s death. Imagine a case like a fireworks factory exploding. This is an unsafe product. That means it can never be totally safe. Because of this, no real defenses apply to the fault phase.
Because of this, plaintiff’s case rests on arguing the damages. So the decedent must have provided emotional or financial support. If not, there is probably no case for wrongful death. In that case, a survivor’s action may lie. But there could be tax consequences. (See more).
The fallout is immense after losing so much, so fast. Emotions run rampant. In fact, some people are so stressed out they forget to protect their legal rights. Accordingly, when you hire us, we don’t let you fall into this trap.
What Wrongful Death Statistics Tell Us.
In the U.S., more people die in accidents than any other event. According to the National Safety Council, negligence seals one’s doom every five minutes.
Statistics tell us at least 101,500 people died in the U.S., in 2003 alone. (Source: CDC Website Accidental Deaths or Injuries.) Topping the death list are automobile wrecks. 90% of medical malpractice cases are death claims.
But people die from slips and falls, food poisoning, choking on food, or smoke inhalation. More gruesome deaths can be from burns. Such an inferno could be a house or car fire. (Actor Paul Walker comes to mind.)
Our firm has also seen a rise in opioid induced deaths.
Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.
And prescription drugs are second leading cause of death today. (Source). But we do the research and stay on top of this field of law. Statistics tell us you may need help sooner than later.
Getting Financial Support.
Survivors have to deal with things like funeral arrangements. Perhaps they are busy clearing out the decedent’s old residence. Ehline Law Firm attorneys understand the nuances. Hence, we will make sure that offending party gets brought under the law.
Hold the Killer(s) Accountable.
We will hold the life-taker civilly accountable for showing the negligent behavior. We have achieved monumental results. As noted, we are recognized pros.
Wrongful Death Statutes of Limitations – Time is of the Essence.
First we act fast to protect the statute of limitations. Normally, victims have two years to file a lawsuit. But our experts know this is not always true. For example, you can’t sue the government, unless you serve a tort claim within 6 months from the injury or death.
And if you are suing a doctor, you have other duties and a shortened statute of limitations. It could be as little as a year. (Read more here). Each case varies. We realize how complex the law becomes even for a lawyer.
But since we are experts, we will protect the correct statute of limitations in your case. But we don’t stop there. Witness memories fade over time. Or they can pass away. So valuable evidence can get lost or destroyed.
But if you rapidly retain us, we immediately take statements and prepare declarations. We go the extra mile to protect the evidence. This is no joke. Ehline uses the most advanced methods to protect your rights. But time is of the essence. So call us right now at (213) 596-9642.
Wrongful Death Damages – What Does it Consist Of?
An entitled wrongful death victim’s family or “survivor” may recover money for the killing. Plaintiffs seek the monetary equivalent of the:
- Loss of love,
- Affection and
- Financial support from decedent’s estate. Also, out-of-pocket expenses are recoverable.
So we consider items like cost of a child’s college, house payments, and car payments. Also, it could include general damages for loss of love and mental support. We have dealt with such cases in the past. And we are dealing with them now. We can take care of your matter too.
Who Gets Paid in an Accidental Death Case and How?
Survivors in order of priority include: parents, siblings, step kids, and maybe grandparents. (See also Code of Civil Procedure §377.60). In some cases, the judge may appoint a conservator to hire a lawyer to sue for the survivors. Conservators are simply people who stand in the shoes of someone legally incompetent.
These people may have the power of attorney. Or they may be approved and appointed by a probate judge. Once a verdict or settlement gets agreed upon, the proceeds get disbursed. Typically, money goes into a trust for a minor.
But this in only until the young plaintiff finally reaches majority. Otherwise, such as a case of a demented senior, a court-supervised trustee delves out funds. But this gets done on an as needed basis – on behalf of their incompetent charge. Ehline helps structure settlements for dependents and minors. We also take steps to avoid conflicts of interest so each party is treated fairly.
Contrast Murder with Wrongful Death?
The modern civil law, statutory scheme differs from the crime of murder. Murderers are tried and convicted in criminal courts. Compare this with a civil court death claim. Civilly, only a judgment befalls defendants in accidental death cases. So the only penalty is money paid the victim.
A Creature of Statute.
Historically, it was cheaper to take a life than to injure another. This is because people could always sue for personal torts. But common law courts said injury claims died with the victims. So back then the killer faced jail-time or capital punishment. Some restitution may have been paid, but not enough to compensate for a death.
Thankfully, this injustice got cured in the mid 19th century. Then most states created statutes by legislative enactment. Since then, survivors could seek a chance in court for money. Modernly there is no jail-time for an evildoer under the civil wrongful death statutes themselves.
But that said, a defendant can still become held to answer criminally by the prosecutor. Also, defendants can be simultaneously sued civilly for remuneration.
As a result, the accused is not in double jeopardy by getting sued while still locked up criminally. Most noteworthy here, we are the attorneys who do the actual suing.
Ehline Law Firm has litigated many significant, high profile legal matters like:
- Aircraft Fatalities.
- Automobile Deaths.
- Bike Fatalities.
- Boat Drownings.
- Cruise Ship Man Overboard Deaths.
- Dangerous Truck Fatalities.
- Dog Bite Mauling.
No Recovery Means You Pay us No Fee.
You heard right. If you don’t recover, we recover no attorney’s fee. But we won’t take on a case unless we believe there is merit. So the chances are good you will recover with us at the helm.
We will go about trying to recover money with meticulous care and skill. Also, we do this for you while you go on living and rebuilding your life. The Grimm Reaper didn’t end your life. Let us help lessen the devastation in the wake of a funeral.
In conclusion, we discussed that a wrongful death occurs when a defendant in a civil case, wrongfully or carelessly takes the life of another human being with or without malice aforethought. Then we showed you some of our impressive jury verdicts and landmark settlements for cases in their class.
Next, we discussed the history of statutory death cases. We went on to discuss the time constraints to sue. Last, we covered how to get money in a personal injury case involving a fatal accident.
Let our California and Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys deal with your case. Call the accident hotline now. Reach the toll-free number at (888) 400-9721. Get valuable legal help and a free case consultation right away.
Maps – Directions