Toll Free 1-800-848-6288

Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death Lawyers in Fresno

The most tragic workplace accident is the one that results in your loved one’s death. This can have an immense impact on your life, both emotionally and financially. If you, your children or other surviving dependents relied on your loved one for monetary support, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation death benefits for your loss and suffering. However, if your loved one died on the job due to a third party's negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit for additional damages. 

While nothing can change what happened, our Fresno wrongful death lawyers at Berry, Smith & Bartell will do everything possible to fight for the compensation you deserve. We have helped recover workers' compensation benefits in a variety of cases and are ready to apply our knowledge to your situation. Senior Partner & Founder Wm. Todd Berry was a workers' compensation defense attorney in 2004 and has been representing injured workers to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board since 2007. He is a member of the Fresno County Bar Association, which serves the Fresno community through charitable, educational and outreach programs.  

We take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not owe us unless we recover compensation for your case.

Schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation today by calling 1-800-848-6288.

Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits

Accidents happen in the workplace every day. Some occupations are inherently more dangerous than others, such as construction and industrial work, law enforcement and jobs in the correction system. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,190 fatal work injuries reported in 2016.

The California workers’ compensation system provides death benefits to certain surviving family members when an employee dies on the job. These benefits are often essential for many families, especially if the deceased was the sole provider of the household.

Even though workers’ compensation helps provide financial benefits to an employee for workplace accidents, it is considered a no-fault system. The system is designed to protect employers from being sued for any work-related injury or death even if they contributed to an unsafe work environment. This means surviving dependents are unable to sue their loved one’s employer.

Our knowledgeable attorneys understand workers’ compensation law and can guide you through the claims process to obtain the benefits you and your family are entitled. 

Eligibility for Death Benefits

Workers' compensation death benefits are owed to surviving family members who were totally or partially dependent on the deceased for financial support at the time he or she passed away from a work-related injury or illness. This might include any of the following:

  • Spouses
  • Domestic partners
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • In-laws
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Nieces and nephews

Certain surviving dependents are automatically considered total dependents. These include children under the age of 18, children of any age who are physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to earn a living, and a spouse who earned $30,000 or less in the 12 months before the employee’s death.

Calculating Death Benefits

Under California law, workers’ compensation death benefits include up to $5,000 in burial expenses for injuries before Jan. 1, 2013 and $10,000 in burial expenses for injures on or after Jan. 1, 2013. You can also receive between $250,000 and $320,000 in death benefits to make up for the wages your loved one can no longer earn – the number depends on the number of dependents in the claim.

Calculating death benefits can be a complicated process. Benefit amounts will depend on how many dependents there are and whether any are partial dependents (such as an elderly parent, as opposed to a minor child or unemployed spouse). One of the advantages of having a Fresno wrongful death lawyer working with you is that he or she can determine the full value of your benefits.

Total Dependents

For total dependents, there is a cap on recovering basic death benefits as follows:

  • $250,000 for one total dependent
  • $290,000 for two total dependents
  • $320,000 for three or more total dependents

If there is more than one total dependent, the payment is split evenly between the parties.

Partial Dependents

Partial dependents can also receive death benefits if there are no total dependents or just one total dependent. If there is one total dependent, he or she can recover $250,000 and partial dependents will receive an amount that is four times the amount they received in annual support, but it cannot exceed $290,000.

For example, if a spouse was totally dependent on the deceased and the deceased also paid $3,000 a month ($36,000 per year) in nursing home care for a grandparent, the spouse (total dependent) will get $250,000 and the grandparent (partial dependent) will get $108,000 (4 x $36,000).

Payment of Death Benefits

Death benefits are typically paid out over time in installment payments in the same way temporary total disability benefits are paid. These benefits are equal to two-thirds (66.7 percent) of an employee’s average weekly wages. Death benefits are paid on a weekly basis to eligible dependents and can be no less than $224 per week.

If the deceased has any children under 18 after all death benefits are paid out, these benefits will continue for the child until he or she reaches 18 years of age.

Filing a Claim for Death Benefits

Surviving family members have one year from the date of death to file a workers’ compensation claim for death benefits.

If your loved one’s death occurred more than a year after his or her work-related injury, you have one year from the date of death or one year from the last payment of benefits to file a claim. No claims can be made more than 240 weeks from the date of injury.

Our qualified Fresno workers’ compensation attorneys at our firm have been through the workers' compensation process numerous times with a variety of cases. We understand the entire claims process and will review the details of your loved one’s death to determine the benefits that may be owed to you. We will work to help make sure you and your family receive what is owed.

Complete our Free Case Evaluation form now.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Employees cannot sue their employers for work-related injuries or illnesses since they are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, surviving dependents may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if a loved one died due to the negligence of a third-party in the workplace.

Liable third-parties could include construction site owners, general contractors, or subcontractors who fail to provide a safe working environment. You might also be able to sue equipment manufacturers who distribute and sell defective or poorly designed products used in the workplace. Negligent drivers who hit workers operating near highways and roadways and suspects who assault law enforcement officers when apprehended or detained could also be sued for damages.

To file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must prove that the at-fault party failed to act with reasonable care and those actions caused your loved one’s death. You must also establish that you and your family suffered harm because of those negligent actions. This could be in the form of lost income or earning capacity as well as intangible losses such as pain and suffering that is not covered by workers’ compensation benefits.

A third-party wrongful death lawsuit is entirely separate from the workers’ compensation system. A Fresno wrongful death lawyer can take care of all the details – from the initial investigation to negotiating fair compensation for your case.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

You cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit in California unless you are one of the following: the surviving spouse, domestic partner or child of the deceased. If there are no surviving dependents, a lawsuit may then be brought by anyone entitled to the deceased’s estate. This can include his or her parents, siblings or other family members living with the victim at the time of his or her death.

If certain surviving family members (a putative spouse, stepchild or parent) can show they were financially dependent on the deceased, they may also bring a wrongful death lawsuit forward. A skilled attorney can help determine if you are eligible to file a claim against a negligent third-party.

Compensation for a Wrongful Death

For wrongful death cases, damages are usually divided to the surviving family members of the deceased or the deceased’s estate.

Compensation for surviving family members can include:

  • Expenses related to medical bills of the deceased before his or her death
  • Expenses related to funeral, burial, etc.
  • Amount of money the deceased reasonably would have earned if still alive
  • Loss of financial support, care and services provided by the deceased
  • Loss of companionship, affection, etc.

Contact a dependable Fresno wrongful death attorney today at Berry, Smith & Bartell to see how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of your loved one’s death. If the case is not filed within the state’s statute of limitations, you will lose the right to compensation.

The only exception to this time limit is known as the discovery rule. In wrongful death cases where your loved one’s cause of death was not apparent when he or she passed, you can file a lawsuit within two years from the date the cause of death was or should have been discovered by exercising reasonable care.

This is not nearly as much time as you think because filing a lawsuit is complicated and takes time. This is why it may be best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible for help.

Our competent wrongful death lawyers in Fresno can determine the amount of time you have to file a claim and help ensure it is filed on time.

Call Berry, Smith & Bartell today at 1-800-848-6288 for a free consultation.

Why You Need a Skilled Fresno Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one because of a work-related injury or illness, you need a Fresno workers’ compensation lawyer on your side. You can count on us to handle your legal paperwork and provide you with skilled representation to maximize your chances of receiving fair compensation.

Our firm will investigate your case to make sure we thoroughly explore all your options and remain communicative with you throughout the entire process to ensure you receive your benefits in a timely manner. We charge no fees unless we can help you recover compensation for your losses and expenses, so there is no risk to you.

Contact us today by scheduling a free, no obligation legal consultation to see how we might help you in during this difficult time.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

logo Berry, Smith and Bartell
Berry, Smith and Bartell logo

Decades of Workers' Compensation Experience in the Central Valley

Types of workers