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How to Detect Signs of Wrongful Death

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Archive: Apr 2019

How to Detect Signs of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death claims effectively take the place of personal injury claims when victims do not survive their injuries. In some cases, a family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim without realizing it at first.

When the cause of death is not immediately determinable, the family and friends of the deceased should fully investigate any and all possibilities and know how to spot the signs of wrongful death. Even it takes time to determine the cause of a wrongful death, most states uphold the discovery rule and will toll the statute of limitations for filing wrongful death claims until the date the surviving family discovers the cause of a wrongful death.

Assessing Negligence

When one party’s negligence contributes to or directly causes the death of a person, the responsible party bears liability for wrongful death. If you suspect a loved one died due to another party’s negligence in California, a Orange County wrongful death attorney can help you investigate the cause of death and determine your best legal options for recovery. To succeed with a wrongful death claim for negligence, the plaintiff must prove four elements of negligence.

  1. The plaintiff’s attorney must prove the defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent.
  2. The plaintiff’s attorney must then prove the defendant breached or violated the duty of care for the given situation.
  3. The plaintiff’s attorney must show the full scope of the damages resulting from the wrongful death.
  4. The plaintiff’s attorney must prove a clear link between the defendant’s negligence and the death in question. Essentially, the plaintiffs must prove the death resulted from the defendant’s negligence and not some other cause.

Proving negligence will require a thorough investigation into the death in question.

Wrongful Death From Toxic Torts and Dangerous Products

If you recently lost a loved one unexpectedly in an accident or due to an illness with uncertain origins, you may have grounds for a wrongful death claim if you can determine the cause of death. For example, if your loved one seemed fine and then a month later passed away from a serious illness, check your local records to see if other people in the area met similar fates.

If you notice a pattern of similar deaths in a relatively small area, this could indicate the people in the area face toxic exposure from a local factory, refinery, or other industrial facility. This would place fault for the wrongful death on the company causing the dangerous exposure.

If your loved one died due to the use of an unreasonably dangerous or defective consumer product, liability for the death may fall to the product manufacturer. Check for any recent news about a recall for the product in question or do some online research to find out if any class-action lawsuits are already in progress against the manufacturer.

Wrongful Death From Medical Malpractice

Mistakes sometimes happen in the medical field, and a death on an operating table may not always constitute wrongful death. Medicine is an inherently uncertain field and doctors and other professionals see patients pass away very often. However, the hospital or surgical center where a sudden death occurred must provide a reasonable and detailed explanation of how and why the death occurred.  If the hospital cannot establish some kind of medically sound precedent as to why the death was unavoidable, it is possible the death resulted from malpractice and therefore constitutes a wrongful death.

The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is always a traumatic experience for the surviving family, and uncertainty surrounding such a death tends to make matters even more challenging for survivors. If you recently lost a loved one unexpectedly and are unsure whether the death qualifies as a wrongful death, a wrongful death attorney can help you investigate the matter and determine whether any parties bear liability.

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How Does My Workers’ Compensation Settlement Affect My Tax Return?

Workers’ compensation benefits exist to provide relief to workers who suffer injuries in the workplace. Workers’ compensation can potentially help pay for immediate medical expenses and offset the economic impact of missing wages, but workers’ compensation may not fully cover the cost of a workplace injury. Some injured workers may wonder whether workers’ compensation benefits will affect their tax returns, and it is vital to understand how government benefits at the state and federal levels work to determine your tax obligations.

Taxability of Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Workers’ compensation benefits do not qualify as taxable income at the state or federal level. Lump sum settlements from workers’ compensation cases do not count as taxable income either. Usually, workers’ compensation benefits will not affect your tax return. If you are currently on workers’ compensation benefits and do not see a W-2 for the tax year while you were on benefits, do not panic. You will not receive any tax documents about your workers’ compensation benefits and it is not necessary to include your workers’ compensation as income when you file your taxes.

Despite the fact that workers’ compensation benefits do not typically count as taxable income, you could still encounter some tax issues in other ways depending on the types of other benefits you receive. For example, if you received workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time, you may receive a tax notification on the income received through Social Security Disability.

Social Security and Workers’ Compensation

It is possible to receive both Social Security Disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits simultaneously with one important caution; the Social Security Administration will likely reduce your disability benefits to prevent you from earning more than 80% of your previous wages in benefits through a process called offsetting. The Social Security Administration calculates an acceptable offset based on your average current earnings.

Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, Social Security Disability benefits do qualify as taxable income. You should expect to pay taxes on all Social Security Disability income received. A certified tax professional can help you answer specific questions about your tax obligations following a workers’ compensation settlement.

Tax Obligations

If you received workers’ compensation benefits for an entire tax year, you will not need to pay taxes on those benefits. However, if you returned to work for any amount of time, even on light duty, you must pay taxes accordingly. Additionally, if you subsidized your income during your benefits period by taking money from a 401k or retirement plan, you will likely face a tax obligation for that income.

Your workers’ compensation benefits may not count as taxable income, but these benefits may still influence your tax return in other ways. For example, if you are married and your spouse continues working while you receive benefits for an entire tax year and you do not subsidize your income with any taxable income, you effectively earned no taxable income for that tax year.

If you and your spouse file your tax return jointly this could effectively place you in a lower tax bracket and lower your overall tax obligation. Since you pay no taxes on your workers’ compensation benefits your overall taxable income will be lower, and therefore your tax return may be less than it was when both you and your spouse worked for the entire tax year.

A workers’ compensation attorney can be a fantastic resource for anyone with questions about workers’ compensation benefits and how they affect tax returns. You may also want to make an appointment with a certified tax professional to ensure you meet your tax obligation for any time you did not work and received workers’ compensation benefits.

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