California Wrongful Death Attorney: Do I Have a Case?

This video features Claude Wyle, a Personal Injury attorney based in California.

San Francisco Injury Lawyer Explains Your Rights After Losing a Loved One

Video Transcript:

Claude Wyle: 

Lawyers, such as ourselves, have been working hard for years, for decades, trying to improve the value, because really it's a devastating loss, as we all know.

Rob Rosenthal: 

If you've lost a loved one and you think you have a wrongful death case, how do you find out? And what do you need to know? Well, that's what we're gonna find out right now as we ask the lawyer. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is San Francisco attorney, Claude Wyle. I want to remind you right at the top, if you'd like to ask Claude questions about your specific situation, you just go to askthelawyers.com, click the button up in the upper right hand corner that says Ask a Lawyer, and you can ask your questions right there. It's very easy to do. Claude, as always, great to see you. Thank you for helping us out again today.

Claude Wyle: 

Great to see you too, Rob.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, Claude, let's start at the beginning at least with a definition, and then we'll get deeper into this. When it comes to wrongful death, it sounds self-explanatory, but tell me, as far as the law is concerned, what is considered a wrongful death?

Claude Wyle: 

A wrongful death case is of course, a case about the ultimate injury, which is a fatal injury or wrongful death. But the wrongful death claim is created through statute, and it's different than a personal injury claim. Things that people don't understand a little bit in California, if a person is injured and they hold on and they hang on for years, a couple of years, but then ultimately they pass away because of their injuries, it's the claim of the closest family members for the loss of the relationship that should have been there in the future.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So, what are some types of wrongful death cases that you've had experience with?

Claude Wyle: 

Well, as you know, we do a lot of motorcycle cases and bicycle cases, and sadly, we've handled a lot of wrongful death cases. We've handled police shooting cases and trucking cases, and all different kinds of wrongful death cases, but what holds true for all of them is that you use the relationship that the decedent had with their closest family members in the past in order to estimate what they should have had in the future, and what they should have had in the future, that is the loss of a wrongful death case. It's the loss of the care, comfort, society, support, affection, guidance. It's a loss of all those things that make a relationship great, and that should have made the relationship great. So if you have a person who is killed, but they're 96 years old, those cases are very difficult to evaluate. In California, you don't get any compensation at all for grief, and you don't get any compensation at all for the pain and suffering up until the time of death.

Claude Wyle: 

What you get, is it immediately reverts over to the person's most close by blood relation or marriage to the decedent, and you would look at what would these people likely have enjoyed of the decedent? In other words, a married couple, a spouse is entitled to support for life, a spouse is entitled to grow old with their loved one, and to have that care, comfort, and society for life. Children are entitled up to age 18 to support, but if you want something past age 18 for financial support, you're gonna have to show some proof that will demonstrate that this child was likely to get more from their parents, more support or more from their father or their mother, whoever the decedent is. The law of wrongful death and the value of wrongful death cases has been changing so much in the last 20 years in California. Lawyers such as ourselves have been working hard for years, for decades, trying to improve the value, because really it's a devastating loss, as we all know. So, the value now today of a wrongful death case is it just vastly exceeds what it was 20, 30 years ago, and that is through the great efforts of the lawyers like in our firm and our colleagues throughout the state.

Rob Rosenthal: 

It seems to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, Claude, but it seems like in a wrongful death case, maybe even more so than in an injury case, even a catastrophic injury case, that the skills of the attorney are more important than ever.

Claude Wyle: 

Absolutely. Rob, in any injury case, in any catastrophic injury case, the quality of the legal representation really matters. In a wrongful death case, you need a lawyer who knows how to present wrongful death damages. They are different. So, when somebody's injured, you've got their past medical bills, their future medical bills, their past wage loss, their loss of their earning capacity, and then the general damages of pain and suffering. Well, in a wrongful death case, you're not really looking for pain and suffering of the person who was killed, you've got to delve into the relationship. I actually had one case where a woman was married to a guy who worked on cruise ships, and she saw him 12 days of the year. And we had to present a claim to demonstrate why she was devastated and her future loss was substantial as opposed to 12 days a year.

Claude Wyle: 

We were able to show that there was true love there, that she thought about him all the time, that he wrote her all the time, that he called her all the time, that he emailed all the time. This person was so important to her, we were able to demonstrate that to the defense. You've got to really, really understand the nature of relationship, the nature of a parent and child relationship, because a wrongful death case is not about the past and how sad they are for losing this person. The wrongful death case is all about what they could have reasonably expected in the future, to demonstrate what the future should have been for these people, straight what the loss is.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Always fascinating whenever we talk, Claude. Thank you so much for making some time and answering our questions, they really helped out.

Claude Wyle: 

Thank you, Rob.

Rob Rosenthal: 

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask The Lawyer. My guest has been San Francisco attorney Claude Wyle. I will remind you that if you'd like to ask Claude questions about your specific situation, go to askthelawyers.com, there's a button in the upper right hand corner of the screen that says Ask a Lawyer. Click that, it doesn't cost you anything to ask. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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