Bakersfield Wrongful Death Lawyers

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Bakersfield Wrongful Death Lawyer

The population of Bakersfield has steadily increased throughout time, reaching nearly 400,000 in 2021 despite the overall population of California declining.

With population growth comes hazards related to city streets and buildings that can no longer safely service the number of people using them. Traffic-related risks further increase due to the types of travelers using Bakersfield’s roadways. As the top agriculture and energy producer in the state, Bakersfield has roadways that frequently carry heavy commercial truck traffic.

Deadly accidents can occur in Bakersfield, including in motor vehicle accidents, malpractice by one of the city’s health care providers, unmitigated hazards on private, commercial, or public properties, and more.

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s carelessness or recklessness, a Bakersfield wrongful death lawyer from The May Firm can provide a free case evaluation. This is time that you have to speak with an attorney about your case, obtain answers to your legal questions, and learn more about the services we can provide to assist you in your claim. We pride ourselves on our attention to detail as we guide you through the wrongful death claims process.

How Does California Define Wrongful Death?

Generally, under California law, wrongful death claims result from negligence, which is careless or reckless behavior that violates the duty that individuals or entities have to use caution to avoid harming others or their property.

However, intentional acts such as assault or domestic abuse can also give rise to a wrongful death claim.

Accidents That Result in Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death can and does occur throughout Bakersfield. Here is a look at some of the most common accidents that can result in a Bakersfield wrongful death claim.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

A recent study by Quote Wizard revealed that Bakersfield drivers are among the worst in the nation based on analysis of the numbers of accidents, speeding tickets, DUIs, and citations for other infractions such as cell phone use or red light running issued here when compared to other areas.

Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death in California, including accidents involving passenger cars, commercial trucks, city buses, taxis, rideshares, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicycles.

Some of the most common causes of motor vehicle accidents that occur on the roadway include speeding, alcohol impairment, distracted driving, driver fatigue, and aggressive driving behavior such as tailgating or red-light running.

Motor vehicle accidents can also be the result of vehicle defects or even occur during the commission of a crime, such as a bank robber leading police on a high-speed chase that results in an accident that kills the occupant of another vehicle.

Other types of motor vehicle accidents that can result in fatalities include those involving aircraft or watercraft.

Premises Liability

Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of owners or possessors of private, commercial, or public properties to protect the safety of others regularly inspecting their property for potential hazards and promptly mitigating those hazards or warning visitors of their presence through a prominently placed warning sign, cordoning, or other means.

Slip and fall claims are the most common type of premises liability claim, and occur when an individual slips or trips and falls as a result of a hazard such as liquid or debris on the floor, loose or broken flooring, damaged staircases or handrails, or potholes in parking lots.

Other types of premises liability claims include dog bites, swimming pool accidents, escalator or elevator accidents, fires or flooding, and negligent security. Negligent security refers to the property owner or possessor’s responsibility to protect guests from becoming injured or killed as a result of criminal activity known to take place in the area by providing security measures such as surveillance cameras, metal detectors at entrances, or security personnel in buildings and parking lots.

Seeking Compensation for Wrongful Death in Bakersfield

When an individual in Bakersfield dies as a result of someone else’s careless, reckless, or even intentional actions, California allows their family members to use the court system to seek compensation for the expenses and quality-of-life impacts they have incurred as a result of the loss.

The following family members are eligible to file this claim or to benefit from the filing of a wrongful death claim by a named administrator of the deceased’s estate:

  • Spouses or domestic partners.
  • Children.
  • Grandchildren, if the deceased’s children are also deceased.
  • Other minors, such as the deceased’s stepchildren, who depended on the deceased for at least 50 percent of their support.
  • Anyone else entitled to the deceased’s property through the state’s intestacy rules.

Family members must generally file their claim within two years of the date of the deceased’s death.

How Liability Is Proven

Liability is a word that refers to legal responsibility. The liable party is the one whose carelessness, recklessness, or intentional act caused the death of another. This can be an individual, such as a driver in a motor vehicle accident claim or a homeowner in a premises liability claim.

It can also be an entity, such as the maker of a product that was defective and that defect resulted in the accident that caused the decedent’s death. California’s shared liability rules mean that there can be more than one party liable for the accident and responsible for compensating the victim’s family.

To prove that someone was liable for causing your loved one’s death, your Bakersfield wrongful death claim must show:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. The duty of care refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in a given set of circumstances to protect the property and physical well-being of others.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care that occurred when the at-fault party took actions that were contrary to the act of protecting the property and physical well-being of others.
  • The actions that the at-fault party took, which breached the duty of care, resulted in an accident in which your loved one suffered fatal injuries and your family incurred financial and emotional losses.

The Compensation Available to Family Members Through a Bakersfield Wrongful Death Claim

California allows wrongful death claimants to seek the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages. The term “recovering damages” in the legal arena means obtaining compensation. Economic damages refer to compensation for the expenses that the family or the deceased’s estate incurred because of the deceased’s death.

The expenses commonly recovered in a wrongful death claim include:

  • Funeral expenses and the cost of burial or cremation.
  • The financial support that the deceased would have provided for their loved ones had they survived the accident.
  • The loss of gifts and benefits the deceased provided to their family members.
  • The cost of household services that the deceased provided.

Non-economic damages refer to compensation for the psychological impacts the deceased’s family members incurred as a result of the loss. Commonly claimed impacts include:

  • The loss of society, protection, and companionship that the deceased provided to their spouse or domestic partner.
  • Loss of consortium, which is the loss of sexual relations incurred by the deceased’s spouse or domestic partner.
  • Loss of moral support, training, and guidance provided by the deceased to their children, grandchildren, and other family members.

Courts rarely award punitive damages in California wrongful death claims unless the claimant died from an intentional act and the defendant was charged with, and convicted of, felony homicide.

While the felony homicide conviction occurs as a result of a separate, criminal proceeding, the presence of a conviction can be introduced into the civil claim as evidence of liability and for consideration of punitive damages. Punitive damages refer to compensation that is received not for the expenses and impacts incurred, but rather as a way to financially punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior.

A Survival Cause of Action

In California, wrongful death claims are often accompanied by a different claim known as a survival cause of action.

The deceased’s heirs file this suit on behalf of the estate to obtain compensation for losses that survive the decedent’s death, such as:

  • Medical bills incurred during the treatment of the deceased’s final injury or illness.
  • Lost wages incurred by the deceased between the time of injury and the time of death.
  • Personal property damage sustained by the deceased before death, such as damage to a vehicle incurred in a motor vehicle accident.

While punitive damages are not available in wrongful death claims, they are available in survival causes of action. However, pain and suffering (non-economic) damages are not available in survival claims but are available in wrongful death claims.

Survival claims are only permitted in cases in which the deceased survived long enough to incur some monetary loss as a result of their injuries, even if that time was only minutes.

The May Firm Can Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim

Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences a family can endure. It is often even more traumatic if the death was the result of someone’s carelessness or recklessness. If you’re looking for a combination of compassionate services and aggressive advocacy as you seek compensation for your loss, trust The May Firm.

When founder Robert May began The May Firm, he did so with a commitment to his blue-collar upbringing and customer satisfaction that his father—a salesman—instilled. These influences created a legal team with a family-like loyalty to its clients, and a law firm that feels less like a pretentious office building and more like the safety of home.

While we strive to keep our environment welcoming, we also are available to come to speak with you at your home or hospital room if that is more convenient, and we welcome your phone calls any time.

Read on for the answers to some of the questions we most frequently hear about Bakersfield wrongful death claims.

Start Your Bakersfield Wrongful Death Claim Today

When you contact our team of Bakersfield attorneys, you will receive a free, no obligation consultation to help you determine if you have a viable case. If you decide to move forward, we will represent you on a contingency basis. This means that you will not get any bills unless we win your case.

Residents of the San Joaquin Valley can utilize our conveniently located Bakersfield office, which is in the heart of the city on California Avenue.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bakersfield Wrongful Death Claims

Yes. While the time limit rarely extends, some claims have shorter statutes of limitation. For example, you must file a claim against a public entity within six months.

In some cases, plaintiffs must file survival actions within six months of the death, while in others, they must file within a year or two of the cause of action (the accident or incident causing the injuries that resulted in death). An experienced attorney from The May Firm can advise you of the statute of limitations in your case.

Yes. You can file a wrongful death claim to seek non-economic damages for your emotional losses, such as the loss of the child’s companionship and affection. If you can establish that your child was already financially contributing to the household—such as a teen who works part-time after school to help pay the bills—you can seek compensation for the loss of their financial contribution, as well.

Likewise, if your child performed household services such as mowing the lawn or cleaning and you must now hire someone else to perform those services for you, you can seek compensation for the cost of those services.

California law requires that all affected parties in a wrongful death action file a single claim. However, if one of the beneficiaries does not wish to be part of the action, they can choose to not participate. However, they must acknowledge to other family members that they understand that by doing so, they are waiving their right to receive compensation through the action.

If the case settles, the family members named in the action generally decide how to divide it, though the judge or an arbitrator or mediator can assist in this process.
If the case goes to court, typically the judge will award the lump sum to the family, and then later divides it up according to:

  • The financial needs of each claimant
  • The future losses that each claimant will likely incur
  • Unreimbursed expenses that each claimant has directly incurred
  • The emotional pain and suffering incurred by each claimant.

Not only is it possible to settle a wrongful death claim out of court, but this is actually how the majority of these claims resolve. A trial is expensive for both parties and the defendant’s insurance provider generally has some motivation to avoid these costs, particularly in cases with clear liability when they know they must pay compensation.

The settlement allows the defense to control the amount paid for the claim through the settlement negotiation process while providing a resolution that will often allow the claimant to receive their compensation faster than they would if the case went to trial.

Wrongful death claims have a lot of unique features. How did the accident occur? Was the decedent killed instantly, or did they live for a time before succumbing to their injuries? How much money were they earning at the time of the accident? Were they married? Do they have children in the home?

All of these factors influence the amount of compensation available. However, this isn’t the only unique aspect of a wrongful death claim.

The settlement itself is also unique, representing the willingness of the claimant and the defendant’s attorneys and insurance adjuster to negotiate an agreement that both sides can accept. However, often two factors influence the amount of the settlement more than others.

These factors include:

  • How much insurance the at-fault party has. People are often surprised at how important insurance is to your ability to obtain compensation for your injuries. Insurance policies pay most compensation in wrongful death claims. While you may sue an uninsured person and even obtain a judgment in your favor, most uninsured parties do not have the money to pay the claim out-of-pocket.
  • Your patience in waiting for a settlement. Settlement offers are not necessarily difficult to obtain if liability is clear. Unfortunately, obtaining a fair settlement offer is usually a different story. Insurance companies are in the business to make money, and one of the main ways they do this is by reducing or eliminating high payouts on claims. The settlement negotiation process typically begins when your attorney sends the at-fault party’s insurance adjuster a demand package complete with details of the case and a demand for the claim’s value. However, this process can last until the court’s verdict. Often, the most reasonable settlement offers do not come until just before the case goes to trial.

Usually, family members who have lost a loved one in a workplace accident recover compensation through California’s worker’s compensation program, which is a form of no-fault insurance policy that most employers in the state are required to provide for their employees.This insurance policy provides up to $10,000 in burial expenses and compensation for dependents based on a percentage of the income the deceased earned. There are, however, exceptions to this rule where a wrongful death claim in civil court would apply.

These exceptions include:

  • Fatal workplace accidents where the employer needed to provide worker’s compensation insurance and did not. In these cases, the family member can seek compensation from the employer through the civil court system. Additionally, the employer can face criminal charges for failing to provide the insurance as required.
  • Fatal workplace accidents were caused by the carelessness or recklessness of a third party who was not the deceased’s employer or coworker. An example of a third-party workplace accident could include a transportation accident involving a delivery driver that another driver caused. Another example is a construction accident in which an accident caused by the actions of one subcontractor crew resulted in the death of an employee from another company.

In certain circumstances, yes. Property owners or possessors are not only required to protect their guests from becoming injured by hazardous features such as loose floorboards, defective elevators, and cracked sidewalks. They also must protect their guests from injuries by criminal activity that they know or have reason to know is occurring in the area.

Failure to do so is called negligent security, and it is a type of premises liability claim that may apply to:

  • Fraternity hazing incidents in which a death occurred, if the college knew or had reason to know that hazing occurred and it could injure or kill a student.
  • Attacks occurring in dark or infrequently traveled areas of the campus where staff failed to provide security checks, surveillance cameras, lighting, and other measures that would protect students from harm.
  • The murder of a student by a staff member. Employers are often vicariously liable for the acts of their employees during working hours and must properly vet staff members through criminal background checks and properly license and train them to handle their responsibilities.

For the most part, the compensation received through a Bakersfield wrongful death settlement or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not consider the award income, because it compensates for physical injuries. Because it isn’t income, it is not subject to tax.

However, the IRS makes an exception for punitive damages. These damages are not available in most wrongful death claims. However, they are available in survival actions that often accompany wrongful death claims. Punitive damages can be subject to tax because they are awarded as a financial consequence of the defendant’s actions, not as direct compensation for physical injuries that resulted in death.

If you deduct medical expenses involved in the treatment of your loved one’s final injury on your taxes and then subsequently obtain compensation for those expenses through a wrongful death claim, you must return the deduction you took.

The legal team at The May Firm understands that losing a loved one in an accident caused by someone else is among the most devastating occurrences a family can encounter, not only from an emotional standpoint but a financial one.

It is hard to think about paying for an attorney when you face the expenses associated with the loss, which can even include the loss of the primary provider in your household. However, hiring an attorney to assist you with your claim is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you can seek the maximum level of compensation available for you and your family.

Our Bakersfield wrongful death lawyers can:

  • Answer your legal questions and guidance about the wrongful death claim process through a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation.
  • Determine all sources of liability and the insurance resources each one has that can provide your compensation.
  • Establish a value to your claim based on the expenses and impacts the deceased’s family members have encountered because of the loss.
  • Negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
  • Guide you on the pros and cons of accepting an offered settlement for your Bakersfield wrongful death claim.
  • File your claim in court within the statutory timeline for filing wrongful death claims.
  • Represent you at all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
  • Litigate your claim.
  • Collect your award or settlement.

Our legal team can begin work on your case without requiring an upfront investment from you, thanks to our contingent-fee billing method that allows you to withhold payment for our services until there has been a successful outcome to your claim. To learn more about the process and obtain answers to your questions about your case, contact The May Firm online or by calling (661) 244-9712.

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