"Thanks to their hard work that I was able to get some closure and the proper compensation to move on." - Chris S.

    The wrongful death of a loved one is one of the most devastating things someone can ever experience. Suddenly the person you loved so much is gone because of someone else’s irresponsibility.

    These tragic situations often arise from traffic accidents where a driver did something negligent on the road – something like drunk driving, drugged driving, distracted driving, or failing to follow California’s traffic laws. And ultimately, someone loses their life too soon.

    On this page, the team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers is sharing some helpful information about how you can take action after a wrongful death in the San Francisco Bay area. We’re here to help you seek compensation and place the responsibility where it belongs after the loss of your loved one.


    What is Wrongful Death?

    Wrongful death the term for someone being killed by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person. Depending on the circumstances, certain family members may be entitled to compensation for the pain, suffering, and loss of income that arose from the person’s death.

    What is a Wrongful Death Action?

    A wrongful death action is a legal action on behalf of the heirs or relations of the deceased. California law recognizes that heirs and relatives of those who die wrongfully are deprived of income, love, and companionship from the person they lost.

    Your wrongful death accident claim allows you to start the process of recovering compensation for these losses. Although it comes at a challenging time in your life, you’ll be glad later that you did everything you could to create a secure future for yourself and your family.

    Three factors must be present to pursue a wrongful death claim.

    1. An individual closely associated with you, like a spouse, parent, or child, must have suffered injuries that contributed to their death.
    2. Those injuries must have been caused, at least in part, by the negligence of another party.
    3. The party in question is an individual person or is an entity, such as a company or government body, whose negligence ultimately resulted in death.

    This may lead you to wonder: What qualifies as negligence?

    Negligence is simply a failure to take proper care or precautions to protect oneself and others from harm. In a San Francisco car accident wrongful death claim, negligence could be something as simple as a driver failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. It could also be as complicated as a mechanic improperly repairing a brake system, which later fails and leads to someone’s death.

    Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Action?

    A wrongful death action can be brought by anyone who has had a close loved one die because of negligence of another person. However, there’s limitations on which family members can make the claim. Those who were dependent on the deceased person, which normally includes their children, surviving spouse, or in some cases, their parents can almost always file a wrongful death lawsuit. Step-children, siblings, and others may have the standing to bring a claim, depending on the situation. Even if the surviving relative(s) was not “dependent” on the deceased person, they can bring a wrongful death claim if they had a close relationship with the decedent.

    The California Wrongful Death Statute, which is covered under 377.60 through 377.62 of the Civil Code, states that legal proceedings after the death of an individual can be initiated by:

    • Surviving spouses
    • Surviving domestic partners
    • Surviving children or step-children
    • Surviving parents
    • Surviving siblings
    • Surviving dependents

    While such wrongful death claims in San Francisco are most often filed by surviving spouses, any of the parties mentioned above may have the legal right to do so. Legal guardians may also qualify for wrongful death claims in certain situations.

    Here are some examples:

    • A mother can file a wrongful death claim for the loss of her unmarried 40-year old son.
    • Elderly parents of adult children can recover money under very challenging circumstances.
    • Siblings of people who were killed in tragic traffic accidents can recover compensation for their loss.
    • A parent losing a child in a motor vehicle accident can sue at-fault parties for compensation to help ease the burden of medical and funeral expenses and for the loss of companionship of the child

    Can a Domestic Partner Bring a Wrongful Death Action in California? What About a Lifelong Friend?

    An unmarried domestic partner or putative spouse often has legal standing to bring a wrongful death action in California. However, a non-cohabiting friend of the deceased may have a more difficult path to proving they have the legal standing it takes.

    The outcome may hinge upon who survives the deceased and who would be entitled to the property of the decedent in terms of the legal process of intestate succession. This is a complex area of the law and you should seek the input of an experienced California wrongful death lawyer.

    Can a Parent Sue for Their Adult Child’s Wrongful Death, Even if Their Child Was Married?

    The loss of a child is something no parent ever wants to endure. Generally speaking, a parent can make a wrongful death claim against a person who caused their child’s death if the parents are the sole surviving legal heirs.

    However, there is no clear answer about parents suing for wrongful death when their child has a surviving spouse and/or children. Each situation has specific circumstances that may impact the wrongful death claim’s success.

    Although the courts look favorably on parents having standing to sue in general, if the deceased person is an adult who had their own children/heirs, things become complicated enough that you should definitely contact a California wrongful death attorney to discuss your options in this situation.

    What is the Impact of Losing a Loved One?

    While it’s terrible to think of losing a loved one in terms of the dollars and cents, many people don’t truly understand the financial impact that the unexpected death of a spouse or parent can have on a family until it’s too late.

    Among married-couple families with children, about 97% have at least one employed adult and 64% have two employed adults. Losing either of these income earners can have a devastating impact on the family’s quality of life.

    An average household in San Francisco could stand to lose about $58,000 per year in annual income when a wage-earner is lost in an accident. Could you handle losing most or all of your annual household income?

    In addition, you’re also losing important aspects of your shared life together, like:

    • Emotional support, including love, companionship, and affection
    • Physical support with yard work, home repair, and chores
    • Lifestyle benefits, like looking forward to retirement together

    After such a life-changing loss, you shouldn’t be worrying about keeping a roof overhead and food on the table. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit in San Francisco after a severe traffic accident can help you compensate for your financial loss and help keep your family living as comfortably as possible.

    Having an Attorney Will Get You More!

    The Insurance Research Council found that:

    Accident victims with a lawyer receive an average of 3.5 times more than those who are unrepresented.

    What Kinds of Damages Does a Wrongful Death Action Request?

    Wrongful death claims recover economic and non-economic damages for the surviving family member(s). Recoverable damages can include, but are not limited to:

    • Burial and funeral expenses
    • Lost income the deceased would have earned
    • Compensation for any gifts you would have received from the decedent
    • Compensation for the loss of companionship and support of the decedent
    • Other damages as determined by the court.

    Additional damages may be recoverable if a survival action is brought in coordination with the wrongful death claim.

    Can I Recover Punitive Damages Against the Driver Who Killed My Loved One?

    Punitive damages are intended to punish someone for their actions. Punitive damages are usually not applicable in a California wrongful death case but may apply to a different type of claim known as a survival action.

    Insurance policies typically exclude liability for punitive damages, so you would need to file a lawsuit against the driver personally if they have the assets to cover a judgment. Your lawyer can help you understand how this works.

    How does a Survival Action Differ from a Wrongful Death Case?

    A survival action is a case that can be brought if the decedent survived for some period of time after the accident – even if it was just hours. A survival action is a claim that is brought for damages suffered by the decedent, not the surviving family member(s). Typically, a survival action is for compensation for the decedent’s medical expenses, pain and suffering (as set out in CCP § 377.34) and loss of earnings.

    But, those damages are limited to the period of time between the accident and the death. So, if they only lived for a week, you would make a survival action for their medical expenses, for their loss of earnings for that one week that they survived. A wrongful death case, on the other hand, as described above, is for the damages suffered by the surviving family member(s).

    It doesn’t always make sense to bring a survival action. For example, if someone is in a terrible car crash and is rendered immediately unconscious but survives for a few hours at the hospital, they may have exorbitant medical expenses, but really not much in the way of pain and suffering damages since they were unconscious at the moment of impact. So, the survival action would mostly only be a claim for their medical costs. If they had health insurance that paid for the medical costs, that insurance company would seek to be paid back the amount they paid for the treatment. Plus, the lawyer would want to get a percentage of the amount recovered. The entire survival claim may just get “eaten up” by costs and fees, so it would not make sense in that scenario.

    However, if the decedent had substantial assets and their estate is going to be liable for the outrageous medical bills, the heirs (or the estate representative) would want to make a survival claim so the estate stays complete and the heirs all receive the money they were supposed to receive from the estate.

    Also, if the driver who caused the crash was drunk, punitive damages (which are not available in a wrongful death lawsuit) could be awarded, so making a survival claim might be the right call.

    It can be quite complicated as to whether you want to bring a survival action or not and that is why you want to seek a consultation from a wrongful death attorney to determine whether a survival action is the right move or not.

    Is a Car Accident a Common Cause of Wrongful Death?

    Auto accidents are one of the most common causes of wrongful death actions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that approximately 37,000 to 40,000 people die in car accidents in the U.S. every year.

    Many of these result in actions against negligent drivers, but some deal with defects in the manufacturing/design of the car that cause or contribute to crashes. Surviving family members may be able to seek financial compensation from a motorist, a pedestrian, a commercial truck driver or their employer, a government agency, an automobile manufacturer, or another involved party.

    Does Wrongful Death Apply to High-Speed Chases With the Police?

    In most cases, the courts have upheld immunity for officers involved in high-speed chases, meaning in California it’s very difficult to win a wrongful death claim against the police. This police immunity has been upheld in cases that have reached as high as the Supreme Court.

    California Vehicle Code Section 17004 states:

    “A public employee is not liable for civil damages on account of personal injury to or death of any person or damage to property resulting from the operation, in the line of duty, of an authorized emergency vehicle while responding to an emergency call or when in the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, or when responding to but not upon returning from a fire alarm or other emergency call.”

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    Why do I Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

    A wrongful death attorney helps you start an investigation into the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death. They also handle communications with the opposing party, which is a difficult and emotionally-charged task in the aftermath of a death.

    In a wrongful death claim over a car accident, your attorney can provide valuable services like:

    • Investigating the complexities of the car accident
    • Locating witnesses and gathering video evidence
    • Arranging depositions
    • Determining whether any type of insurance may apply
    • Advising whether you may be owed compensation for expenses like car repairs, funeral costs, and medical bills for the deceased
    • Evaluating the emotional damages you may be entitled to and how to best document those
    • Help strengthen your case so the other side doesn’t belittle your relationship with the deceased family member in an effort to pay you less
    • Help serve as an emotional buffer or shield, as a wrongful death claimant has to be very vulnerable in making a solid claim for their emotional losses
    • Reducing your stress during the challenging time while you are still grieving after your loved one’s death

    Here are some examples of how our wrongful death accident legal team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers’ has successfully settled some recent wrongful death accident cases for our California clients:

    Wrongful Death Car Accident – $951,000 Settlement

    Wrongful Death Semi-Truck Accident – $889,647 Settlement

    Wrongful Death Emotional Damages – $450,000 Settlement

    See More Case Results

    Justin E.

    San Francisco Accident Client

    "WOW. Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers over-performed. Although the case took a little longer than expected, I never had to worry about them being on top over everything. I received a great settlement and Lauren was even nice enough to bump it up by a few bucks to make it a beautiful even number. Thank you, Lauren!! I highly recommend!"

    What if the Death Happened a Long Time Ago?

    In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is 2 years. So if the date of death (not the date of the accident, if that date is different) was any longer ago than that, it’s very unlikely that you could bring a claim.

    What if the Roadway or Area Has Changed Since Then?

    Maybe the street was repaved since your loved one died in a skid-related accident. Or maybe the road in question has been completely torn out and replaced with a new highway since then. That’s okay.

    Don’t worry if the physical location of your loved one’s death has changed in the time that has elapsed since your loved one died. Technology offers many innovative ways to see and recreate the scene of a traffic accident.

    For example, Google Earth captures views of places all around the world. The Wayback Machine preserves old information in an internet archive. WhatWasThere offers old views of streets and sidewalks. The Weather Channel preserves the weather reports for exact dates, which is helpful in fatal car crashes.

    As you can see, an experienced wrongful death lawyer knows much more than just the law. They are also experienced accident investigators who know how to access the right technology to support a wrongful death case.

    Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Claim if the Person was Acquitted of Vehicular Manslaughter or Another Crime?

    Yes, even if someone was acquitted of a crime related to the death of your loved one, you can still bring a wrongful death claim. In fact, since the standard of proof in a wrongful death claim is less stringent than it is for criminal cases, there’s a good chance that someone could be acquitted of murder or manslaughter and still be found liable for wrongful death.

    Terry B.

    San Francisco Client

    "I am happy to say that Rebecca and her team successfully settled my case and I received a financial settlement that was fair and actually for more than what was expected. I happily and wholeheartedly recommend Rebecca and Carmen at Sally Morin Law."

    How Long Does a Wrongful Death Case Take?

    The timeframes for these cases have a lot of variation, so we can’t predict how long it will take until we do a free case evaluation with you. Generally speaking, a wrongful death case takes between several months and several years to resolve. Wrongful death cases involving only emotional damage claims can sometimes take longer than the ones where you're making economic damages for loss of earnings and support.

    Numerous factors influence how long your case may take, and most of them are beyond your and your lawyer’s control:

    • Insurance – The at-fault party may lack insurance, could be trying to mislead you about their insurance coverage, or may have an insurance carrier that is stalling and creating lags that slow things down.
    • Depositions – A deposition is sworn testimony that is given out of court. It can take time to gather depositions and people are sometimes slow or adversarial about giving them.
    • Liability and litigation – It also takes time to establish the basic facts of the case and determine which route to pursue in establishing liability. If the wrongful death is contested, litigation may be necessary, and the court places cases on their docket according to how busy their schedule is.
    • Bad faith dealings and outrageous valuations – Unfortunately, some people and organizations won’t deal with you in good faith, which slows the process down. They may avoid you, act callously about your loved one’s death, or even give your case a ridiculously low and insulting valuation. A talented wrongful death attorney will see these tactics and overcome them.

    What Types of Wrongful Death Cases Does Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers Handle?

    We give our total focus to clients who are seriously injured in accidents and those who are experiencing the painful aftermath of wrongful death. Our expertise is securing high-dollar compensation for people whose lives have been totally shaken up by the negligence of others.

    We handle a wide variety of wrongful death situations that involve:

    Not Sure W​​​​hat To Do Next?

    Complete Guide on what to do after an accident in San Francisco

    Some of what you will get in this guide:

    1. What you can do immediately after an accident
    2. How to get the help you need to recover after an accident
    3. Helpful resources and contacts in San Francisco that you can reach out to
    4. Understand your personal injury case and how you should handle it
    Adithya R.

    Adithya R. "Lauren was very clear in understanding and explaining the situation. I was very happy with the whole process. I would highly recommend Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers firm."

    Hold the Right Person Accountable for Your Loss

    After a wrongful death, every moment counts. There could be valuable camera footage that could be lost at any moment as time passes. Witnesses have memories that fade. The two-year statute of limitations on a wrongful death action passes fast when you’re coping with the death of someone you love.

    This is why it’s important to act fast and talk to a wrongful death lawyer. You don’t want to lose your chance to hold the right person responsible for your loved one’s death and get the compensation you need to put the pieces of your life back together.

    Here’s some good news during a difficult time: You don’t have to go through it alone. The team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help you recover from your loss and take legal action in honor of your loved one.

    We encourage you to read our real client stories that show our genuine personal connections with our clients. At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we’re the real deal!

    We live and work right here in San Francisco, just like you. Our reputation, effectiveness, and 5-star customer service has San Francisco families contacting us about wrongful death claims. We carefully handpick our clients to focus on each situation individually and provide the care and attention you deserve.

    Still not sure about hiring a San Francisco car accident lawyer? Find out more here about whether Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers is the right firm to handle your case.

    You can also learn more about how the accident claims process works if you choose Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers to guide you through your SF auto accident case.

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    Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers is an all female team of customer-focused, five-star California personal injury attorneys who exclusively handle traffic accident settlement negotiation. They have California offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Oakland.

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    Justin E.

    San Francisco Accident Client

    "WOW. Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers over-performed. Although the case took a little longer than expected, I never had to worry about them being on top over everything. I received a great settlement and Lauren was even nice enough to bump it up by a few bucks to make it a beautiful even number. Thank you, Lauren!! I highly recommend!"

    Review of Sally Morin Law by Terry B.

    Terry B.

    San Francisco Client

    "I am happy to say that Rebecca and her team successfully settled my case and I received a financial settlement that was fair and actually for more than what was expected. I happily and wholeheartedly recommend Rebecca and Carmen at Sally Morin Law."

    Review of Sally Morin Law by Adithya R.

    Adithya R.

    Adithya R. "Lauren was very clear in understanding and explaining the situation. I was very happy with the whole process. I would highly recommend Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers firm."

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