Wrongful death is painful in so many ways. Not only did you lose a loved one, but it also happened because of somebody’s negligence. It would have been preventable.
On top of these, you have to face the economic burden of raising your children alone or paying off the mortgage. When you feel you and your family have been aggrieved, you have a remedy. You can approach a wrongful death attorney in Long Beach.
Wrongful Death in California
Wrongful death is a civil action you take against a defendant or the negligent party. It awards you with damages, which can be both economic and non-economic.
Economic damages refer to the costs you incur during hospitalization and funeral, as well as loss of income. Non-economic tackles sleepless nights, suffering, and emotional pain brought by death.
Sometimes the judge can also demand punitive damages, which serve as a “penalty” to the defendant. You have up to two years since the accident or death to file a lawsuit. There are exceptions, however.
The court can allow you to file it beyond two years due to late discovery. It took you a while to connect the person’s death with the impact of somebody’s negligence. Also, you are less likely to file a suit or establish a connection within two years.
One-Man Action Rule
California’s injury claim, though, has one specific rule that people often forget. It’s called the one-man action rule. According to it, the heirs or beneficiaries of the claim can sue the defendant only once. All of them must agree to file only one suit. These are also the individuals who will receive the lump sum money.
What if other heirs didn’t know about the death, let alone the personal injury claim? The law states that the court is already out of it, especially if there’s already judgment. These heirs who are missing from the claim can pursue those who sued and received the damages.
This rule is critical when there’s a pre-litigation settlement. Take, for example, the case called Moody vs. Bedford. In the narrative, Corinthia Hood, the mother, died in a head-on collision, in which she was a passenger. She left behind an adult daughter and other minor children.
At the time of the accident, Patricia Boyce owned the car while Gregory Bedford was the driver. Her adult daughter, Corisha Brown, settled the insurance by claiming she’s the sole heir. Before giving the full policy worth $100,000, Permanent General asked Brown to provide a list of all heirs. Brown, on her part, didn’t as she believed she’s the only sole heir.
Daniel Moody, acting on behalf of the minor children who are the other heirs, decided to file a wrongful action lawsuit against Bedford and Boyce. Bedford and Boyce contested, citing one-man action rule. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Court of Appeals later sided with the latter.
It explained that Bedford and Boyce could not assert the rule since there’s no action before the pre-litigation settlement. That is, Brown didn’t sue them for wrongful death. The act of the remaining heirs was, therefore, the first time that they have to face such a claim.
In the end, rules can be confusing, even with wrongful death claims. To give your claim the best shot, work with expert attorneys.