Santa Barbara Wrongful Death Lawyer (805) 372-0200

Woman sad and cryingLosing a loved one is a gut-wrenching, traumatic event. It can turn your life upside down. The pain and grief can be overwhelming, especially when the loss is sudden and the consequence of a preventable accident. If you lost a loved one, deepest condolences go out to you and your family. The memory of your loved one needs to be honored and the at-fault party needs to be held responsible. This is why you should consider retaining the services of a Santa Barbara wrongful death attorney and pursue a claim against the at-fault individual or corporation.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

You may be surprised to learn that, under California law, only a limited number of individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a decedent. According to California Code of Civil Procedure section 337.60, et seq., the following individuals are legally allowed to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of a lost loved one:

  • the surviving spouse or domestic partner of the decedent;
  • the children of the decedent;
  • the parents of the decedent; or
  • the siblings of the decedent.

This means that if you were dating the decedent or even engaged to be married, you may be prohibited from filing a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Extended relatives such as cousins or grandparents are also likely prohibited from filing a wrongful death claim.

Types of Damages You Can Pursue Through a Wrongful Death Claim

There are typically two types of damages that can be pursued through a wrongful death claim - economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include the financial support provided by the decedent to their family (including expected support based on their life expectancy), funeral and burial costs, and medical expenses accrued as a result of the accident.

Noneconomic damages are more imperceptible. They include the emotional trauma of suddenly losing a loved one, such as your grief, sorrow and mental anguish.

In some circumstances, you can also pursue punitive damages. These are monetary damages intended to punish the defendant, or defendants, for egregious conduct that caused the death of your loved one, including personal injury and employment claims. They are meant to have a deterrent effect on the defendant from acting in a same or similar way in the future.

Causes of Wrongful Death

There are numerous situations that can ultimately result in an unexpected death. If the situation was caused by the carelessness of another driver, a doctor, a consumer product, etc., you may have grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim.

Types of wrongful death claims often arise from:

  • Car wrecks;
  • Trucking accidents;
  • Bus accidents;
  • Medical malpractice;
  • Dangerous consumer products;
  • Nursing home abuse;
  • Airplane accidents; and
  • Swimming pool drowning.
Do I Really Need a Santa Barbara Wrongful Death Lawyer?

When you lose a loved one, you need to focus on the grieving process. You should not be spending your time speaking to an insurance claims adjuster or having to file paperwork with the court. Let a lawyer take some of the burden off of your shoulders. You need to focus on rebuilding your life and moving forward.

Hiring a wrongful death attorney also makes sense because there are no upfront costs associated with retaining a lawyer. This is because wrongful death lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay anything unless and until your lawyer achieves a financial recovery in your case. In addition, most wrongful death attorneys offer a free consultation so there is no cost associated with simply speaking to a lawyer and discussing your legal options.

How a Santa Barbara Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help – Jury Verdicts and Settlements

Hiring a wrongful death attorney can dramatically improve your chances of receiving a large settlement or jury verdict, as opposed to filing a legal claim pro se. For example, with the assistance of a lawyer, a family received one of the largest jury verdicts in California history for the death of a minor. The tragic case involved a Starline tour bus accident that resulted in the death of a student. A jury found that the bus company was liable for the crash and awarded the family $26 million in monetary damages.

In another example, a California jury entered a $5 million jury verdict against an assisted living community that allowed a resident with dementia to leave the community. The resident died as a result. The jury ordered the assisted living community to pay $2.1 million in damages for the wrongful death, $2.5 million in punitive damages and $400,000 for elder abuse, according to McKnight Senior Living.

Another example is the verdict entered in favor of a family of a firefighter who died in a bike wreck. The verdict was $39 million against one of the nation's largest landscaping companies, according to Chron.com. The firefighter was reportedly riding his bike when he was hit by a landscaping trailer stopped in traffic.

Do Not Delay in Speaking to an Attorney

If you are contemplating legal action against the party that caused the accident that took the life of your loved one, you need to speak to an attorney sooner rather than later. Under California law, a wrongful death claim must be filed within a specific time period known as the statute of limitations. You must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the date of your loved one’s death. If your wrongful death case is not filed within two years, it could be barred from going forward.

If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another person or company, contact me right away. I am here to help.

Edward A. Smith
Contact a Santa Barbara Wrongful Death Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Santa Barbara wrongful death lawyer with over 30 years of experience representing families who lost loved ones in terrible accidents. I understand what needs to be done to get the compensation your family rightly deserves for your loss.  Please call me at (805) 372-0200 for free, friendly and no obligation advice. You may also contact me free of charge at (800) 404-5400.

Follow these three links to YelpGoogle Plus and the attorney rating site,  Avvo,  to read client reviews of my law office.

See the results of some of my cases here:  Past Verdicts and Settlements .

I am proud to belong to the Million Dollar Forum. This organization only accepts attorneys who have obtained verdicts and settlements of a million dollars or greater.

Image Attribution: By Samael Kreutz from Concepción, Chile (Broken Heart) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


:sb bw [cs 1133]


Client Reviews
  • Me and my wife; had a car accident. We were amazed how easy, professional, friendly attorney Ed Smith is along with his staff. Everybody is amazing. Thank you so much, we are very impressed!
    Sincerely, Alex & Dinah M. ★★★★★
  • Ed Smith and his office team took on a difficult personal injury case on my behalf and for the passenger in my car. Ed is a top- notch attorney. His staff couldn't have been more helpful and kind. No need to look elsewhere. I give Ed Smith my highest recommendation. Beverly ★★★★★
  • Ed and Robert have been taking great care of my husband and I for the past 5+ years. They are always there when you have a problem and a quick resolution! Even when the issues have nothing to do with them. They are willing to help ease the pain off your shoulders. They are as good as it gets! Thank you again for everything. Annie T. ★★★★★
  • Very professional. Great team, staff and service all around. Mr Smith was very honest, straight forward with his advice. He gives the word "attorney" an honest reputation. I will seek his council anytime, and would recommend him at the drop of a dime. Jeremy M. ★★★★★
  • I would highly recommend Ed Smith to any friends or family in need of a personal injury attorney. Ed, and his staff, are very caring on top of being very experienced in this field. The staff always keeps you informed of the status of your case and they are always easy to reach by phone. Shannon D. ★★★★★
  • Edward Smith law offices provide competent, thorough, and personable help for victims of personal injury. When you first meet the staff you know you contacted the right office. This law office treats clients like people. I recommend this office to anyone seeking representation regarding personal injury. David M. ★★★★★