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San Francisco Wrongful Death Lawyer

We are so sorry to learn about your loss.  We know these times are so difficult for the families of the loved one that has been lost.  Our law firm has represented dozens of people in your situation.

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We are so sorry to learn about your loss.  We know these times are so difficult for the families of the loved one that has been lost.  Throughout the years our personal injury law firm has represented dozens of people just like you that are dealing with the untimely and unfair loss of their loved one and needed a San Francisco wrongful death lawyer.  Of course, the families had questions.  Some had a million, some only had a few, and others admitted that they had no idea what they needed to know.  Regardless where you fall, below you will find our past client’s most common questions—with answers.

We organized our wrongful death page this way so that you can choose how much information you want to consume and can get to the information you want as efficiently as possible.  If you have a question that is not addressed here or would like to talk to us about representing you in your wrongful death claim, please call us at (415) 345-4282

Exactly what we do for our clients in a short, animated video:

Does your law firm specialize in wrongful death cases?

Yes.  We are experienced in handling these difficult cases on behalf of the family members of the deceased.  Our goal is always to obtain financial justice for the family members that have had their loved one taken from them and ensure that they are not forced to deal with financial stress while coping with their emotional loss.   We have handled many wrongful death cases over the years, but here are three recent wrongful death cases we have resolved for our clients.

Confidential settlement: Our client, S.L., brought a wrongful death claim after her mother died from a fall at her nursing home in Livermore, CA.  Her mother required assistance when ambulating and general care from her caregivers.  One day, S.L.’s mother was being taken out into the backyard of the nursing home for some fresh air when the caregiver left her standing alone on the patio to go answer the phone.  S.L.’s mother fell, broke her hip and was hospitalized for 2 months before ultimately dying from complications.  We sued the nursing home for negligence and obtained a confidential settlement for S.L.

$660,000 settlement: Our clients, N.B. and T.C., brought a wrongful death claim for the untimely death of their 90 year-old father after he was killed by being run over by a MUNI bus as he attempted to get off the bus.  N.B. and T.C.’s father was moving slowly and the bus driver closed the back door prematurely, causing his rain coat to become caught in the door.  He was dragged a short distance, run over by the back wheels and died in the hospital 3 weeks later from his injuries.  We obtained a settlement from the City and County of San Francisco for their emotional distress. 

Confidential Policy Limits settlement: our client, B.H., hired us to represent her and her two children after her husband and father of her children died in a car accident in Oakland.  The decedent was the primary bread-winner for the family.  We sued the driver of the vehicle and the company that he was working for at the time of the accident.  After rejecting several settlement offers and conducting substantial litigation, we settled the wrongful death claim for the insurance policy limits several months before trial.

I need a San Francisco wrongful death lawyer, but how are you paid?

We are only paid if we win you case.  Our agreements call for a contingency fee of either 1/3rd or 40% of the settlement, award or verdict.  If we are required to litigate your case (file a lawsuit) our fee slides from 1/3rd to 40% to account for the increased financial risk we are taking on.  We never bill our clients by the hour and we spend as much time as is necessary with you and working on your case.  Additionally, we will advance all costs necessary to pursue your case and will never ask you for money to finance your own case.  If we are successful, we are entitled to be reimbursed for our out-of-pocket, advanced costs in addition to our contingency fee.  If we don’t receive a settlement or verdict on your behalf, you never owe us for the time or money we have spent pursuing your case.  This arrangement allows everyone to be able to afford the best San Francisco wrongful death lawyer.

What will you be doing for me when I hire you?

When you hire us, you hand off all of your legal and administrative problems, work and stress associated with your l0ss to an experienced wrongful date lawyer who has handled dozens of cases like yours.  This allows you to focus on your healing, while we handle everything else.  Whether you realize it or not, there are a lot of pitfalls out there for a wrongful claimant that has never dealt with a tragedy like this before.  Insurance companies and their adjusters have the goal of saving as much money as possible and that means denying your claim, underpaying your claim and/or attempting to get you to do and say things that permanently harm the value of your claim.  We won’t allow for any of that.

We will serve as the point of contact for anyone wanting to contact you about the accident or your loss.  We will advise you about all the tricks that insurance companies and their agents play so that your claim, when presented, has no issues associated with it that might limit its value.  Additionally, by hiring us you will swing the leverage of your claim back to your side, as the insurance company will be forced to accept the fact that you won’t be one of the claimants they can take financial advantage of—every major insurance company knows us and has dealt with us many times; we have a reputation of getting every dollar available.

Here are the specifics:

Investigate your Claim

  • Find all sources for recovery (insurance policies and deep pockets).
  • Order and review records related to the accident.
  • Hire medical professionals, if neccesary.
  • Order any police/incident reports.
  • Talk with any witnesses.
  • Advance any upfront costs needed to establish your claim.

Present your Claim to the Insurance Company

  • Handle all communication with the insurance company (they’ll stop calling you and your family).
  • Identify any problem areas with your claim and address (and remedy if possible) them early on.
  • Prepare and submit a detailed and comprehensive settlement demand package that includes legal arguments, a persuasive presentation of your claim and supporting documentation.

Maximize Your Settlement Amount

  • Use our leverage of being able to file a lawsuit to put pressure on adjusters.
  • Use our experience in handling dozens of cases like yours to ensure you are paid top dollar.
  • Negotiate & reduce any liens that are being asserted, including health insurance claims, which nets you and your family more.

Occasionally, the at-fault party’s insurance refuses to accept responsibility, wants to place an unfair amount of blame on your loved one, or doesn’t properly respect the value of your loss.  When that happens, we file a lawsuit on your behalf and utilize the court system to create pressure on them.  You see, the insurance company knows that if they don’t treat you fairly, a jury of 12 of your peers will ultimately decide what you are entitled to.  This pressure causes them to reassess their position on your case and almost always causes them to offer you a good settlement before trial.

File a Lawsuit

  • Prepare a formal complaint.
  • Advance any upfront court costs (filing fees, service fees, etc.)
  • Track down and personally serve the defendant(s).

Litigate your Case

  • Explain and walk you through the entire process.
  • Prepare you for when your participation is needed.
  • Obtain all documents from the defendants to establish your case.
  • Advance upfront costs for hiring any needed experts.
  • Negotiate with opposing attorney to settle your case without the need for trial.
  • If necessary, present your case at trial to a jury of your peers.

If I hire you, how long will the process take?

We understand that your goal is to get your wrongful claim resolved as quickly as possible so that you can attempt to heal.  However, the circumstances of the accident will determine how long the process will take to achieve a settlement.  We have found that the two windows most ripe for settlement are 2 months after your contact us (pre-litigation settlement) and 6 months after filing a lawsuit (post-litigation settlement).

Of course, every case is different and opportunities to settle your case can be frequent.  If we are required to file a complaint on your behalf because the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, we typically will do that right away.  However, you should know that California law gives you two years from the date of the accident to either settle your claim or file a complaint to protect your claim (Note: if the defendant is a governmental entity, you have six months from the date of your accident to file a formal governmental claim, not two years).

2 months after you hire us

Some of our wrongful death claims are settled quickly.  Cases that settle in this window often have the following characteristics:

  • Liability is clear and the other side is not asserting that your loved one was (also) at fault for the accident
  • The person who caused the accident was not a government employee.

6 months after filing a lawsuit

Sometimes insurance companies refuse to accept responsibility or don’t respect the value of our client’s damages and we must file a lawsuit to create sufficient pressure on the other side.  A common misconception about filing a lawsuit is that it means that a trial will occur.  That’s not true, at least not with us.  We have a reputation for working up our clients’ cases in the litigation process so well that approximately 95% of all cases that require us to litigate result in a settlement for our clients without the need for trial.  The reason that our post-litigation settlements typically occur about 6 months after filing the complaint is because formal, written discovery needs to be done and depositions need to be taken of the parties (including you) and key witnesses.  These things typically take about six months to complete.

If your wrongful death case is one of the few that does requires a trial, we are experienced trial attorneys and will present your case to a jury.  Jury trials in Bay Area counties (San Francisco, Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Napa and Sonoma) typically take place about 12–18 months after filing a lawsuit.

What is process of hiring you to represent me?

There is nothing harder on a person or a family than losing a loved one.  This tragedy is made worse when the reason for the loss was entirely avoidable or the result of someone else’s inattentive or negligent acts.  Our firm has specialized in representing the family members of people that have died untimely deaths for over a decade.   If you have lost a loved one, contact us for a free consultation by submitting an online inquiry or calling us at (415) 345-4282 to learn about the California legal process and how we can help you.  At no charge and with complete confidentiality, we will discuss the loss of your loved one and what can be done to obtain a financial settlement for you and your family.  We invite you to visit us at our office, which is conveniently located in the Marina District in San Francisco.  We have free private parking and street parking is readily available during business hours.

For many of you, this is your first encounter with a personal injury lawyer and you are not too sure how the process works, what to do next, or what you’re entitled to.  We understand.  We will sit down with you either at our office or at your home – whichever you prefer – and discuss your situation and loss.  It can be an emotional meeting, but it is a very important one.  We need to gather information and get to know the relationship you had with your loved one.

Once we connect and discuss your situation and decide that we are a good fit for one another, there are three documents that we need you to sign: (1) Employment Agreement, (2) Letter of Representation, (3) Medical Records Release Form.

How much is my case worth?

There is no fixed or settled-upon amount that a wrongful death claim is worth.  Rather, each claim is evaluated based on many factors, including: relationship to the decedent, financial support no longer provided by the decedent, amount/likelihood of responsibility of the party for the death, and the amount of money available (insurance limits, assets, etc.).  Once we are able to gather the necessary information and thoroughly evaluate your claim, we will discuss the potential value of your claim with you.  Any lawyer that attempts to tell you what your case is worth without evaluating these factors (which takes time) should not be trusted and is probably merely attempting to woo you as a client.

Recovery from a wrongful death claim can be divided into two categories: economic and noneconomic damages.  Additionally, in California, unlike other states, there are no caps on how much a jury can award a person bringing a wrongful death claim.

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to compensation for objectively verifiable monetary losses, i.e., items that you can place an exact dollar amount on.  In determining future economic damages, such as loss of future wages, a jury must reduce the award to present cash value, meaning that they take into consideration factors such as inflation, interest rates, and other economic indicators.

Wrongful death plaintiffs are entitled to the following economic damages:

  • The financial support that the decedent would have contributed to the family during his/her life expectancy or the life expectancy of the person making the claim (whichever is shorter). *Minor children are entitled to the support they would have received until adulthood, unless they can prove they would have continued to receive support after, such as through college.
  • The loss of gifts or benefits that the person making the claim would have expected to receive from the decedent.
  • The reasonable value of household services that the decedent would have provided, e.g., if the deceased regularly cooked and cleaned the house, the surviving spouse would be entitled to the value of regular cooking and cleaning services.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages refer to:

  • The loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
  • For spouses and domestic partners, the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations with the deceased.
  • For minor children, the loss of training and guidance the deceased would have provided them.
  • What is a wrongful death claim?

In California, a wrongful death claim arises when a person dies as a result of the negligence of another person or entity.  These claims are civil claims (not criminal) where the family members of the deceased person brings a civil claim against those responsible for the death.  The family member has the claim; it is not the claim of the deceased.  The purpose of bringing a wrongful death claim is to recover money from the party responsible for the death in order to compensate the family member for the emotional distress and loss as well as for any financial support that may no longer be provided to them now that their loved one is gone.  In most instances, we find an insurance policy that pays out on behalf of the party responsible for the death.

Who is legally entitled to make a claim for wrongful death in California?

In California, the people who are entitled to inherit from the deceased in the absence of a will are generally able to make wrongful death claims.  Specifically, the following people are entitled to make claims:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner (must be registered)
  • Surviving children (or if deceased, their living children)
  • If no surviving children, siblings or other relatives of the deceased.
  • Ex-spouse, if the spouse believed the marriage was still valid and was dependent on the deceased for support.
  • Stepchildren if they were dependent on the deceased for support.
  • Any minor living with the deceased for more than 180 days and who was dependent upon him/her for at least ½ of his/her support.

As you can tell, there are numerous potential plaintiffs who can make wrongful death claims.  However, in California, a wrongful death can only give rise to one lawsuit.  Any person who may be entitled to compensation for the wrongful death of their loved one must be included in that lawsuit.  With all of these competing interests, it is crucial to have experienced legal representation in order to ensure your interests are protected.

What kind of accidents usually cause death?

Wrongful death claims can arise from a variety of accidents.  The ones we have encountered most often are:

Tips for people that have just lost a loved one

There is no doubt that you will need a great San Francisco wrongful death attorney if you are going to be treated fairly by the insurance company of the person or entity responsible for the death of your loved one.  The insurance company knows that they are looking at the potential for major financial exposure and will do what they can to limit the risk that your claim presents to them.  They know that once you hire an experienced lawyer, they won’t have the opportunity to take advantage of you. More often than not, they will attempt to contact you immediately with a very friendly and sympathetic attitude in hopes that you will play by their rules, which are at odds with your best interests.  The first thing you should do is contact us to discuss your case, but should you find yourself interacting with the insurance company, here are some tips you should be aware of:

  • Tip #1: Giving Statements (coming soon)
  • Tip #2: Medical Treatment (coming soon)
  • Tip #3: Med Pay (even without medical insurance you can get your medical bills paid for) (coming soon)
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    Did You Know?

    In 2012, California had the most bicyclist killed of any state. (Source: GHSA)
    In 2013, accidents were the 6th leading cause of death in California, accounting for 11,189 fatalities. (Source: CDPH)
    In 2014, San Jose had a total of 67 fatalities related to traffic and auto/pedestrian collisions. (Source: SJPD)
    In 2011, DUI/DWI was the leading cause of automotive related fatalities in California with 63.5% of motor vehicle related deaths being caused by drunk drivers. (Source: DMV)
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