Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys
Hello. I am Los Angeles wrongful death attorney, Michael Ehline. I am among the most successful and experienced injury lawyers in Los Angeles, California. My law firm has won over $100 million in verdicts and settlements. Below you will find out more about me and how my law firm helps clients with their wrongful death lawsuits. First, I want to start by saying that I understand you probably landed on this page because you are suffering the loss of a close, loved family member.
Being the victim of an unnecessary death myself, I empathize with you as you and your loved ones grieve. And I can say without a doubt that a relative's death caused by the murderous, or negligent actions or inaction of another person is a bone-chilling experience for any resident of this City.
So Just What is Wrongful Death in a Nutshell?
One of the saddest types of legal cases we deal with as lawyers is a wrongful death claim. In a nutshell, wrongful death happens because of someone else's stupidity or recklessness. So the entire family is placed into a sort of double state of despair. First, those left behind are now missing someone, and second, the families must deal with a broad spectrum of emotions, knowing that another person wrongfully took their mom, dad, grandparent, or kids before their time. (The history of wrongful death - discussed here).
Super Important - Immediately Gathering Winning Evidence.
So my first goal here is to help you lucidly understand how precarious your financial situation could be right now as you grieve. Although acting fast probably goes against your emotional grieving clock, you must!; I can't stress enough how important it is to strike while the iron is hot in a death claim. Evidence gathering often makes or breaks a wrongful death case. If you have no evidence or not enough proof of fault, you can lose any chance of getting paid for a wrongful death case.
And this is not always just about you. You could have a depressed relative who will lose everything if they don't get legal aid now! Failing to investigate the case early on makes things worse. For example, valuable evidence, like video surveillance, could be lost. Think about skid marks in the car or motorcycle collision.
A fresh rain, a city water sprinkler, or days of new traffic can operate quickly to conceal and destroy fresh roadway evidence. Emails could be deleted, and "bleach bit" could be wrongly used to erase data hard drives.
TIP: Ask your potential new lawyer questions about their special investigative steps. For example, aggressive wrongful death attorneys will immediately attempt to track down the killer. And we try and get statements before any deceitful bad actors "lawyer up." After all, often, this will be the only person who was there when it all went down. True, most of the time, they will embellish and embroider things in their favor, and this is fine. Because now, if they try and change their story later, we can show they are dishonest and self-serving. Or, for example, what if my team or I hit the streets and finds a new witness or videotape that contradicts the killer's sworn statement? What if our investigation of tread mark measurements at an accident scene fails to support the statements in the killer's sworn testimony? Well, he is no longer believable; that's what. And if you seek to preserve later destroyed evidence, the less powerful evidence provided in the defense shall be viewed by the court and jury with distrust. (See also CA Evidence Code Section 412).
Acting swiftly to investigate witnesses is critical because their memories may fade over time. Or other things can tank your case, such as witnesses passing away from natural causes. (A good lawyer would promptly seek signed, sworn declarations from witnesses, measure and photograph skid marks and debris fields, just in case).
As an aside, you should at least send out a demand for preservation of evidence letter if you are too depressed to speak with a lawyer now. (A great discussion about this preservation of evidence letter is here). All of these things you do now will help our engineers and biomechanical experts determine how and why the death took place and who is more likely responsible than not.
Victims of Wrongful Death - Who Are They?
Many potential victims of wrongful death exist. First, there is the decedent who was a close loved one. The decedent could be your child, wife, civil partner, or parents. Then there is you, the survivor, and perhaps your siblings. These are generally victims entitled to sue with few exceptions.
Surviving a Los Angeles, California Wrongful Death.
To begin with, let's talk about surviving a wrongful death, money, myself, my experiences, and how it all works. Below I will explain everything in layman's terms as a wrongful death survivor. Afterward, I will explain how a lawyer can and will be necessary as you make the vital end of life decisions (for those in a coma, for example), and figure out how to adjust after the tragic loss emotionally. Not everyone in these cases needs a lawyer to hold their hand, but many do.
Money is the Remedy: And although "wrongful death" is not a synonym for money, sometimes even life insurance doesn't fill the income gap. And you may not be in a position to work as you grieve and seek counseling. Most of all, in some cases, you have no choice but to sue for that compensation.
For example, what if your husband passed away and left behind business overhead, medical bills, and a house payment? What if you and your late spouse were partners in rearing your "special needs" kids with autism? So you homeschooled the little ones, and he toiled away in an office as the breadwinner.
You gave up your career for the greater good. Saddled with two kids who just lost their father and not enough money, you need help fast. Are you getting this so far?
Michael Ehline's Journey as a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer.
Below I am going to tell you more about my legal experiences in Los Angeles before and after I was a lawyer. Next, I will explain how I help bereaved clients who have a wrongful death legal case in L.A.
My experience as a Los Angeles attorney started well before I was a teen. My parents and teachers all told me I was a good debater, and that I should be a lawyer. But I wanted to be a Marine. So I joined the Corps at 18, as soon as I graduated from the California Independent Study Program. Let me explain; I hated school. So my Marine dad gave me a choice. Go to an alternative education school and get a job. So I worked construction full time as a painter's apprentice from age 16-18 and went to high school at night.
The Road To Being an Injury Lawyer.
My knee was injured, and I became honorably discharged from the Marines. So the road to becoming an injury lawyer started with my injury. I went on to own several small businesses and worked in sales. So I know how hard it is to make it in one of the most expensive places to live, LA. Moving on, I ended up becoming a complex litigation paralegal. Afterward, I read for the law under several Los Angeles lawyers on the California State Bar Law Office Study Program.
Also, I was a volunteer law clerk for the Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney at the Airport Courthouse near LAX off of La Cienega. There, I worked in the criminal prosecution division. During that same period, I worked as a civil law clerk for several LA-based injury law firms. I even co-chaired several jury trials as a Certified Law Student. So yes, I have trial experience.
After I passed the Bar and began practicing law, I studied law at night at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law. Of particular interest, I was a judicial extern for the California Court of Appeal inside the Ronald Reagan Building in Downtown Los Angeles. And I am the only student in the history of my law school to have been a practicing California lawyer before earning my Juris Doctorate.
During my time as a law clerk and assistant, I learned the special measures in how to conduct discovery, gather evidence, oppose, and propound motions. But most of all, I became a superior legal researcher. I am one of these old school lawyers who were around before the days of Westlaw and LexisNexis. Most of all, I still love going to the Downtown LA Law Library and doing my legal research, starting with the pocket part and working my way into the appellate and Supreme Court holdings. So basically, I still hang out with the paupers, pro per litigants, and less funded legal researchers.
Having worked for the City of LA, I learned about homicide and murder and criminal law and motion. Now, as a civil personal injury lawyer, I represent victims of crimes and help them sue for wrongful death in Los Angeles courts across the County. And for over 15 years, the wrongful death attorneys at Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC have helped Los Angeles families and neighboring Southern California located rebuild their lives after losing a cherished loved one.
With me leading the way, my firm can sympathetically help determine if someone's failure to act or wrongful action caused your loss. While you recover, we do a bottom-up investigation of the facts surrounding the death. Also, our staff and experts can help tally up and classify your financial and other losses. Also, we will deal with all the legal papers. And we act to shield you from snooping insurance adjusters and private eyes during these stressful, sensitive, and emotionally charged times.
Last but not least, we will work hard to settle the case out of court so you can deal with self-reflection and healing. My promise to you is that if you can't resolve, we will take your case to trial. We prepare our cases so well; I am confident a jury will agree that the defendant's wrongful actions or inactions were what killed your baby, spouse, or civil partner. And because of this, the jury will decide what your financial and emotional losses are from the defendant's acts leading to the negligent killing.
How Ehline Law Firm Helps With Wrongful Death Claims in LA.
To recap, the surviving family members can file a lawsuit following the death of a loved one caused by a neglectful or reckless person. But Los Angeles presents many unique challenges to filing a lawsuit for wrongful death, discussed here. Although a wrongful death can arise from crime and vice versa, the remedies and parties are a little different. So even though the defendant may be looking at jail time for the killing, the Los Angeles District Attorney does not get you money beyond criminal restitution under California Penal Code Section 1202.4
His client is the People of the State of California. And garnishing an imprisoned felon's paycheck is meaningless to their broken and impoverished victims of crime. Also, the criminal fines, penalty assessments, etc., go to the State to pay back society itself, not to compensate the victims. (Learn more).
Most of all, the focus in an Unlimited Jurisdiction civil wrongful death case, unlike a criminal trial for murder, remains on the money. And this money is compensation to cover damage to family members who just lost a dear, loved one. For example, benefits could help pay for your child's tuition at a private school. And the forms and types of money are discussed more below under the topic, "What are the Specific Types of Compensation We Seek for You?"
But insofar as financially protecting you goes, if the DA files a charging document, we will accompany you to the criminal hearings if you get called as a witness. And we can also attend the trial. So that way, we can keep an eye on the DA to make sure he or she is doing their job right.
Are there Defendants & Accidents Specific To Los Angeles in a Negligent Death Case?
Yes, there are. As discussed thoroughly here, the top four reported accidents in Los Angeles are:
- Slips, Trips, and Falls.
- Car Accidents.
- Falling and Flying Objects.
We have all seen it on Channel 7 Evening News. Some idiot ran a grandma or baby over in the crosswalk, or a landlord let little kids sneak into an insecure public pool. That's how people die. And the person who acted or failed to act is the "civil defendant."
And there are many other potential defendants in a Los Angeles death claim. They could be state actors or private actors. For example, a city worker, a private company, and just about anyone could have played a role in the killing.
Also, statistically, Los Angeles, on average, is a much more dangerous place to live, work, and travel than a more rural city or County (Read more here). Most of all, Los Angeles tops the list for some of the most dangerous traffic intersections. And statistically, you are more likely to be injured in a bicycle or motorcycle accident in LA than other large towns.
And it is also a place where older people are slipping and tripping on misleveled, or elevated sidewalks. And one of the top four injuries in LA arises from flying and falling objects hitting people in the head. But tripping and slipping elders remain at particular risk for head injuries, coma, and death. For example, if they fall on an unrepaired City of Los Angeles sidewalk, they can fall and crack open their skull and die. And Los Angeles is not just a place with dangerous pedestrian pathways. LA remains notorious for poor roads, riddled with potholes.
Many LA commuters have had to swerve at one time or another while driving. For example, drivers may have to take evasive actions to avoid public road construction and repair debris. If it's raining, drivers may not even see the sinkhole or pothole filled with water. All of these things can very easily lead to early death, even when using the utmost care. But good luck suing the City of LA for this mess unless you have a lot of experience dealing with government claims and sovereign immunity.
Car accident injuries can range from mild to fatal, with an enormous space in between. Unfortunately, even low-speed collisions can cause significant injuries. According to the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System, or FARS, thousands of serious accidents take place each year.
Wrongful death from a car accident occurs when another driver or someone in control of that driver fails to abide by their duty to drive reasonably for the conditions presented and someone you love is killed. It's that simple.
In that case, the wrongful death survivors can sue for their losses of love, companionship, society, and even lack of sexual relations in some cases. Also, you can sue for loss of income and education that would have been provided had the defendant's not killed your husband, wife, child, parents, etc.
The remedy is a civil suit in a court of Unlimited Jurisdiction for money damages. But there are some hurdles and facts you should know before speaking to the other side. These below tips are by attorney Michael Ehline. Hopefully, they will help you out.
What Is The Most Common Cause of Fatal Car Accidents?
At least one study revealed 65,000 fatal vehicle accidents over two years. The study showed that 1 out of 10 driving accidents resulted from driver distraction. And remarkably, a large percentage of driver distraction was drivers lost in wandering thoughts, or from daydreaming.
FARS’ statistics showed that in 2008 alone, 34,017 people died in motor vehicle accidents with others killed each successive year.
How Do Fatal Auto Accidents Happen?
Millions of travelers head to work, school, or vacation in their passenger cars every day. Sadly, there are thousands of motoring accidents every year. In fact, every 12 minutes, a fatal car accident takes place somewhere, nationwide.
There are many reasons for these tragedies, including:
- Distracted drivers
- Poor roadway conditions
- Poor weather conditions
- Mechanical failure
- Driver impairment caused by the use of alcohol or drugs.
Remarkably, only 12% of the total fatalities in recent studies blamed iPhones or Android devices for accidents.
How Do You Sue a Killer - What About Double Jeopardy?
Also, double jeopardy is not at play when comparing a civil and criminal case arising out of the same set of facts. So the D.A. can still jail the evildoer. But that doesn't compensate those left behind for their stacks of bills and sorrow. Picking up the pieces is the hardest part. And without money, it's even harder.
What is The Burden of Proof and Negligence Per Se?
The burden of proof is much lower in a tort action. It will typically be a preponderance of the evidence standard instead of the clear and convincing evidence standard. Conversely, it is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt (as required in criminal cases). (see the below video.)
Hence, generally, your Los Angeles car accident attorney will be unable to argue that the damages were negligence per se. But civil courts allow this type of inferred negligence in, however, when the criminal case convicts the defendant.
No matter what the case, only a trained legal professional can accurately size up each situation. A firm like EhlineLaw.com can build your case brick by brick. Hence, we make sure that we can try to fill the large gap in your life in any way we can.
What Happens After a Fatal Auto Accident?
After such a disaster, the living members of the family could face severe, life-altering issues. Beyond the evident emotional trauma caused, there could be unforeseen issues with insurance companies and their shift tactics. Most of all, insurance claims adjusters and agents try to withhold or reduce your due payments to mere peanuts of their true worth in the marketplace.
Also, large medical bills could be piling up, as you starve while healing and out of work. Most relevant here, the insurance company for the other driver who caused the injury should step up. But fighting a large insurance corporation alone is a daunting task. So what's the answer?
What Other Types of Los Angeles Death Cases Do We Help With?
We help people with deaths arising out of:
- Toxic Smoke and Chemical Inhalation.
- Police Shooting Cases.
- Motorcycle Wrecks.
- Metro Bus Crashes.
- Dangerous Foods.
- Death by Suicide.
- Fires and burns.
Also, a wrongdoer with no intent to cause harm can still be civilly liable to pay for causing a wrongful death. The law only requires you to prove to a jury that the defendant acted with negligence, carelessness, or in a reckless manner that caused death. So the wrongdoer can't look the other way if he or she owed the decedent a duty of safety. Even a close family member may have to pony up to the other survivors if found civilly liable. And as stated above, merely not acting all can form a basis for legal liability.
Also, don't count on the LAPD to give you an accurate Traffic Collison report or other documentation. And don't think Cal OSHA will be accurate in its reporting of the cause of workplace death.
What are the Specific Types of Compensation We Seek for You?
First of all, being domiciled in LA means you pay more on average for taxes, rent, and everything else. And a smart lawyer has to hire the right experts to get all of these expenses covered. Or it could just be that you want to set up a trust, or a memorial fund for your child. Either way, you need to break down and classify the various types of legal compensation.
But you also have to show your life expectancy. Why is that? Well, proving how long you will live is important because you are suing for lifetime money and intangibles. All of this is what you would have gotten but for this unwanted death. So if you are a drug abuser, or will be dying soon, your case will be seriously derailed as far as future compensation.
The types of potential compensation are as follows:
- Intangible Losses: You can get money for your loss of love, comfort, affection, marital, and sexual relations. And you can also seek money for the loss of comfort or companionship provided by your father, mother, or child.
- Economic Losses: So these will include benefits like loss of your husband's disability check from the VA and his health insurance. You heard, right. What if you and the kids were covered under the VA due to your husband's military disability? What if the $3,000 a month he got for being a PTSD victim in combat was being set aside for your children's college fund? But now he is gone, and with him went your kid's education and free health care with zero deductible. And as discussed above, you are still entitled to get compensation for loss of other income and wages.
- Other Damages: In survivor's claims, sometimes families can recover money for their loved one's past medical bills, past lost earnings, and even damage to their car or other property. However, this type of damage or loss suffered before death claims is pursued rarely by survivors. The least awarded damages for a personal injury are "punitive damages." But these extraordinary awards remain available if you can meet the plaintiff's burden of proof. Most of all, you will have to show the defendant maliciously, wantonly, or flagrantly disregarded the safety of others by exposing them to known dangers. Our crack staff can help you explore your team to explore your specific facts and guide you as to the upsides in getting paid. And since our high caliber lawyers remain up to date on recent case law and stare decisis decisions, we can reliably lead your injury matter at the highest levels of professionalism.
Who and Where Do You Sue for a Wrongful Death in Los Angeles?
Good question. For one, Los Angeles has special rules discussed here on the site, for what specific LA courts allow the filing of wrongful death lawsuits. Also, you can't just sue in LA unless the defendant, his business, or the death, took place in LA. Assuming those elements are present, now you are greenlighted to sue in the Unlimited Jurisdiction court listed on the LASC website.
TIP: Don't forget that suing the City or County of LA for a wrongful death will mean shortened times to complain and sue, discussed here on my website.
So assuming you made it this far, California law allows only immediate family members who had decent relationships to sue for wrongful death.
Plaintiffs Can Include:
- Civil partners.
- Surviving spouses.
- The decedent's children, and dependent grandkids. Interestingly, any dependent minor child residing with the decedent for at least six months can seek a claim of at least partial support.
- In some cases, brothers and sisters may become entitled to compensation for wrongful death.
As discussed above, we addressed surviving a Los Angeles wrongful death, my experience as an injury lawyer in LA, and what you need to do and why you need to do it quickly. No matter what, you and the survivors deserve to get paid for your tragic losses.
No matter what, our loyal and honest lawyers will give you the straight scoop about your case. And we will work hard to protect you during this difficult, confusing time. Now is the time to avoid conflicts of interest and strained familial relationships. And a well-trained lawyer can help you do it right.
In recognition of what you face after an unexpected loss, my staff and I recommend you call us right now. My firm has several convenient locations, including Downtown Los Angeles and neighboring locales. As always, we provide cost-free case evaluations. And we will do a phone consult right now about your potential claim. So don't delay, call Ehline Law Firm at (213) 596-9642!