Income inequality has been a hot topic of discussion among the American public for many years. Various studies show that income growth seems to happen only for society’s highest earners, while low and middle-income families see little to no wealth growth over time. The Bay Area of California has some of the most staggering income inequality in the country, which could be a major reason why lower-income families in the Oakland area may not pursue wrongful death claims.
How Income Affects Wrongful Death Claims
Filing wrongful death claims requires time and money that most lower-income households simply do not have. Additionally, legal fees for representation in a wrongful death claim could comprise a substantial portion of a lower-income plaintiff’s settlement or case award. The cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area has also grown astronomically in the past several years, further hindering lower-income families’ flexibility when it comes to paying for legal representation.
Lower-income areas are generally less safe and less healthy than wealthier areas, so residents of lower-income neighborhoods are more susceptible to illness and injuries from negligence. Lower-income neighborhoods are also more likely to encounter environmental health hazards, such as contaminated drinking water, poor air quality, dangerous roads, and more safety issues. The life expectancy for people born in these areas is significantly lower than in wealthier areas, sometimes by as much as a decade or more.
Few choices when it comes to food also present problems for lower-income areas of Oakland. Many individuals in these neighborhoods do not own their own vehicles, and the area’s poor standards drove away businesses including grocery stores. In their place, establishments like check cashing businesses, fast food restaurants, corner markets, and liquor stores have taken root, offering the local populace minimal choice for healthier foods. For someone living in this area without a car, the choice between a trip down the block to a corner store for a cheap meal or a half-hour bus ride to the nearest grocery store isn’t really a choice.
Limited Legal Options
Many people file wrongful death claims when loved ones die from the negligence of other parties, unsafe environmental conditions, or lax public policies. Suing the government or a local municipality is much more complex than filing suit against another private citizen, and this may discourage many lower-income families from pursuing wrongful death claims.
Most people who decide to pursue wrongful death claims for loved ones lost due to negligence face complicated legal entanglements that can involve multiple defendants, a plethora of documentation, and long, drawn-out hearings and court battles. A lower-income family may not be able to secure adequate legal assistance for pursuing a wrongful death claim, or the possible settlement amount isn’t enough to justify the expense on attorney fees.
Despite the challenges facing lower-income neighborhoods in Oakland, it is important for anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one in a wrongful death to explore their legal options. Surviving loved ones can secure compensation for a deceased loved one’s final expenses and medical bills, as well as compensation for their suffering and loss of a loved one. If you find yourself in such a situation, reach out to a reliable wrongful death attorney for a consultation to determine whether pursuing a claim would be a prudent choice.