Understanding Wrongful Death Cases For The Elderly
The passing of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences a person can endure. Anyone who has coped with the loss of an elderly family member knows that an important part of the grieving process is accepting that it was simply their time to go.
Unfortunately, a shocking amount of Americans end up coming to the realization that their loved one’s death was not only untimely but was the direct result of a doctor or caretaker’s negligent or abusive behavior. These types of wrongful death cases are as heartbreaking as they are infuriating – especially because they are entirely avoidable if the proper care and attention is provided.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in California?
A wrongful death claim is filed under the basis that the negligent or wrongful actions of another person or group of people led directly to a loved one’s death. This behavior can occur in any type of eldercare environment such as a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in the elder’s home. It can also occur in hospitals and medical facilities.
The three most common factors that can lead to the wrongful death of a senior are:
Seniors who have suffered some form of elder abuse in a nursing home or care facility have a 300% higher chance of death than those who have not been abused. This abuse can be physical such as hitting, pushing, shaking, restraining, or kicking, which – when severe enough – can quickly lead to life-threatening injuries.
The abuse can also be psychological, which may seem less serious but can be just as morbid and life-threatening. As a person gets older and more fragile, any emotional stress they have to endure will affect their overall health much more aggressively. Abused victims may become deeply depressed or anxious, leading to self-destructive behavior such as refusing to eat or inflicting self-harm.
Most wrongful death cases stem from some form of neglect – or failing to provide for an elder’s basic needs. Some common examples of neglect in eldercare environments include:
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Failing to provide a safe and clean environment
- Poor infection control
- Failure to prevent falls
- Untreated bedsores, sepsis, or other infections
- Inadequate monitoring, leading to the elder wandering off alone
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional makes a mistake that could have been avoided – resulting in harm to the patient. If that mistake is fatal, then it could be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Medical malpractice can be committed by a doctor, nurse, or caretaker. It comes in a variety of forms, which can include prescription errors, failure to diagnose a disease, misdiagnosis of a disease, failing to give the proper dose of a drug, poor handwriting on a prescription, misreading a label, missing doses, or giving unauthorized doses to a patient.
Who Can Sue for the Wrongful Death of a Family Member?
Under California law, survivors of a wrongful death victim have the right to sue the negligent parties involved. California’s Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members (or their personal representatives) to file an elderly wrongful death lawsuit:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- Children or grandchildren
- Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their financial support
- Putative spouse (a person who believes himself or herself to be married in good faith and is given legal rights as a result) or the children of a putative spouse
How Much Can You Sue for Wrongful Death?
Compensatory damages in a wrongful death case can include economic and non-economic losses.
Economic damages are designed to compensate the victim’s family for the financial impact they have sustained as a result of their death. This monetary value varies greatly from case to case but it is generally dependent on:
- The financial support the deceased was earning and contributing to the family, as well as the amount of time they were expected to continue making that contribution.
- The loss of gifts or benefits the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased.
- Funeral and burial costs.
- The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided.
There are also losses that one experiences after the death of a family member that can’t be defined in monetary terms. Non-economic damages that an heir can receive in a wrongful death case can include:
- Loss of companionship, affection, comfort, protection, assistance, and moral support.
- Loss of training and guidance that a deceased parent would have provided.
- Loss of intimate relations.
Contact Our Law Firm About Your Wrongful Death Case Today
We’re here to help – but it’s important to act quickly. In wrongful death cases, the statute of limitations can be short – anywhere from six months to two years after the date of the death, depending on the particular facts of the case.
During times of grief, we know that the last thing you want to do is to deal with paperwork and the complexities of the court system. This is why our experienced wrongful death lawyers are here to take that additional burden off your hands. We can collect physical evidence and eyewitness testimony to prove fault in your case and help you attain maximum financial recovery.
Contact Berberian Ain LLP today to schedule a free initial consultation with our lawyers. You can also call us at 818-808-0048.