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Pursue Justice for Your Lost Loved One.

Choose a Firm That Was Created to Advocate for Victims.

Vaage Law > Practice Areas > Wrongful Death

When Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

The loss of a loved one can be the hardest and most painful thing a family may experience. When a person is taken due to a preventable accident, negligence, or recklessness, the grief of surviving family members and friends is often compounded by outrage and feelings of helplessness. However, under the law, you are not helpless when it comes to pursuing justice for your loved one.

We at Vaage Law can help you and your family obtain financial compensation for your loss by filing a wrongful death claim. While the law can only compensate you financially, we also hope to prompt changes in safety measures, protocol, design, or training to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to another family.

If you need representation for a wrongful death suit, call Vaage Law at (619) 338-0505 to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney today.

A woman and her grandmother hug and support one another after a wrongful death in the family.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death occurs when a person loses their life as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another person, company, or entity. Wrongful death cases arise from a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to:

A qualified wrongful death lawyer from Vaage Law can help investigate the injury or action which led to your loved one’s death. In doing so, we identify which individuals or companies are responsible and hold them fully accountable. We handle the paperwork so you can process your grief in peace.

A father and son huddle their heads together in a bright green park to have a comforting heart-to-heart.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim can be filed against individuals, companies, and organizations, but each state has its own specific rules regarding who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. After direct family members like parents, spouses, and children, some states also allow more distant relatives to file (like grandparents and descendants). Other states allow financial dependents or creditors to file wrongful death suits.

Vaage Law is located in California, which allows surviving heirs to seek specific damages for the death of a family member due to negligence. According to the California Code of Civil Procedure, the following individuals are permitted to file a wrongful death claim in California:

  • Surviving children
  • Minor stepchildren who are financially dependent and held out as children
  • A surviving spouse or a registered domestic partner

If there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, then other individuals may bring an action. Because a wrongful death action must be brought by all of the surviving heirs in one lawsuit, it is important to identify all potential plaintiffs. Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney at Vaage Law to determine who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Those who file a wrongful death complaint must show that another party’s negligent or intentional conduct caused the death of their loved one. Surviving family members also need to offer proof that they’ve suffered monetary and non-monetary damages. These are the elements of a lawsuit that a wrongful death attorney will allege on your behalf—you only need to reach out to Vaage Law for representation.

A woman sits comfortably in her home next to condolences flowers and calls a wrongful death attorney.

What Can a Wrongful Death Settlement Help Cover?

The damages (payments) awarded through wrongful death settlements or verdicts can include:

  • Financial support that the decedent would have contributed to the family during either the life expectancy of the decedent before death or the life expectancy of the plaintiff(s), which is shorter;
  • Loss of gifts or benefits that the plaintiff(s) would have expected to receive from the decedent;
  • Funeral and burial expenses for the deceased;
  • Household services that the decedent would have provided;
  • Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support;
  • Loss of intimacy in a marriage or legally recognized union;
  • Loss of decedent’s training and guidance for children and/or grandchildren; and
  • Punitive damages if the defendants acted with malice, oppression, or fraud.

California law specifically does not consider the grief, sorrow, or mental anguish of the plaintiff(s)/family/heirs. For lawsuits filed on or after January 1, 2022, Senate Bill No. 447 has amended California law to allow for the recovery of the decedent’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement, where previously non-economic damages of the decedent was not allowed. Get in touch with us if you need help with survivor claims.

Vaage Law has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients, including successfully representing surviving heirs in a wide range of wrongful death cases. Reach out to us today at (619) 338-0505 for representation.

Vaage Law has successfully represented surviving heirs in a wide range of wrongful death cases. Reach out to us today at (619) 338-0505 for representation.

Testimonials for Vaage Law

Hear testimonials from clients we’ve helped at Vaage Law, including mother Pamela D., who lost her daughter due to hospital negligence.

Contact Vaage Law for Wrongful Death Representation

The death of a family member is a painful, difficult experience. Wrongful deaths make the tragedy even worse because they could have been prevented. In pursuing a lawsuit for wrongful death damages, you seek justice for yourself, your family, and may help save future lives by holding negligent parties accountable.

Vaage Law remains a small firm so that we can deliver personalized representation—everyone in the office will know who you are and why we’re fighting for you. Bob Vaage and his office colleagues and staff have almost 150 years of combined legal experience. Our case results speak for themselves about our dedication and the high quality of our services.

You can reach Vaage Law by calling (619) 338-0505, or by filling out our online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation. Our wrongful death lawyers will work to recover the expenses related to your loss, replace lost wages, and secure the financial future of you and your family. Let us help you through this difficult time with our compassionate advocacy and support.

Wrongful Death FAQs

Is wrongful death hard to prove?

To demonstrate a wrongful death has occurred, there are four elements your lawyer needs to prove:

  1. A duty of care was owed (for example, to obey public rules or provide safe accommodations)
  2. There was a breach of that duty (whether accidental or intentional)
  3. The breach caused or contributed to a death
  4. That death did calculable damage to the surviving family members and heirs

After suffering such a devastating loss, many families fear that the burden of proof isn’t worth pursuing a case. That’s not always so. An experienced wrongful death lawyer will know where to find the evidence to prove a wrongful death action. Some acts of negligence that cause a death are very straightforward, e.g., a pedestrian killed in a crosswalk when struck by a driver who ran a red light. Others can be more difficult, such as an improper workup and treatment of a brain injury. Sometimes a family will suspect the death of their loved one was wrongful, but can’t prove it. At Vaage Law, we have the knowledge and skills to identify the red flags that suggest negligence. Then we look for the real cause of death.

Who pays in a wrongful death suit?

Depending on who is proven to be at fault, an individual, corporation, or their insurance companies may be financially responsible for your losses. That cost may be shared between individuals or companies if there is partial blame across multiple parties. For example, insufficient safety protocols of a store, coupled with the bad decisions of a manager, could both contribute to a death from a slip-and-fall accident.

How long do I have to file for wrongful death?

The time limit for filing wrongful death suits varies in California. If the wrongful death was caused by a public entity, including a hospital district (e.g., Palomar Health), you have six months from the date of death to file a claim with the entity. Wrongful death lawsuits caused by medical malpractice must be filed within one year of death and non-medical malpractice cases must be filed within two years. If the negligence was caused by a federal employee acting within the scope of their employment, the Federal Tort Claims Act requires that a claim be filed within two years of death.

The statute of limitations or deadline laws are complicated in California. Contact a wrongful death lawyer right away so that you and your family are not prevented from pursuing your wrongful death case.

What should I do if I suspect the wrongful death of a loved one?

Below is a list of some of the items you should consider if you suspect wrongful death:

  • If the death was caused by an automobile, truck, or motorcycle collision, get your hands on the traffic collision report or incident report.
  • Get copies of photos or take photos of the traffic collision scene or other location, if applicable.
  • Make sure you have a copy of the death certificate.
  • If possible, obtain an autopsy or get a copy of the autopsy report. One of the elements of a wrongful death claim is proving that the negligence caused the death.
  • Make sure you get a copy of all of the medical records, radiology images, or other health-related documentation related to the decedent.
  • Keep your receipts for funeral, memorial, and related expenses.
  • Gather all of the financial records for the decedent, if they exist.
  • Collect and store photographs and videos showing the decedent working, interacting with the family, going places, doing hobbies, etc.

Contact Vaage Law at (619) 338-0505 to see what additional information you may need based on the specific facts related to the circumstances of the death.

Sudden or unexpected deaths are especially hard on a family. The deadline to pursue a lawsuit for wrongful death is not extended while the family is grieving. Let the attorneys at Vaage Law assist you in investigating and pursuing a wrongful death action while you try to find a way to get through this difficult time.

Give us a call today to begin filing a wrongful death claim for your loved one.






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