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San Diego Wrongful Death Lawyers

  • Over 750 combined Google 5-Star Reviews
  • Tens of millions won every year for our clients
  • We won’t settle for less than the maximum value for your case
  • 30 combined years of legal experience 
San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

Trusted And Recommended

HHJ Trial Attorneys proudly serve victims who have suffered from serious injuries. HHJ is one of San Diego’s premiere personal injury law firms. We’ve obtained over ten million dollars for our clients within the last 4 years alone and have been voted the Best Litigation Firm for the last 3 years through the San Diego Union Tribune. All three partners have been voted as Super Lawyers and have received coverage from local and national news outlets.

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Lorenza AquinoLorenza Aquino
23:47 25 Jun 24
Best office for your personal injury needs. They have the best attorneys !!!
Adriana GuevaraAdriana Guevara
23:31 19 Jun 24
This law office helped me with my fall that I had in the mall. They helped me with doctor visits and insurance. I liked how they treated me and the patience they had with my case.
Jason RuthJason Ruth
01:56 18 Jun 24
I was rear ended in an auto accident. The other driver fled the scene. My auto insurance decided they wanted to be of little help. They lied, denied me medical coverage, and strung me along for 5 months before finally totaling my vehicle. I was left in a medical/ auto limbo with no one to help since my insurance wouldn't answer my calls/ emails. It wasn’t until HHJ trial attorneys got involved that my insurance started providing the coverage they were suppose to from the start. Kamil Robinson from HHJ was there every step of the way to explain things and answer any questions no matter what time of day. First and foremost he made sure I received the medical care I needed and made sure my auto insurance held up their end of the bargain. Kamil along with Freesia Farris really helped me navigate and move past an unpleasant situation I was dealt. If it wasn’t for HHJ the outcome would have been a lot different. Thanks again Kamil and everyone at HHJ!
Orquidia MoreiraOrquidia Moreira
17:43 16 Jun 24
Best attorneys in san diego
Divina GaDivina Ga
17:23 16 Jun 24
Dave HDave H
18:31 06 Jun 24
Kamil and the team at HHJ were a pleasure to work with. He was very responsive and was always easy to get on the phone. He was really good about walking us through the process and explaining our options and next steps. They were all very professional and attentive. I would definitely use HHJ again.
Erickson GanapinErickson Ganapin
16:11 29 May 24
I recently had the pleasure of working with HHJ Trial Attorneys for a motor vehicle accident I was involved in, and I couldn't be more impressed. Adam Hepburn and his team demonstrated exceptional professionalism, expertise, and dedication throughout the entire process. They were proactive in communication, keeping me informed every step of the way, and their attention to detail ensured that my case was handled with the utmost care. I highly recommend HHJ Trial Attorneys for anyone in need of reliable and effective legal representation.
Jordan EnrightJordan Enright
14:57 08 May 24
Michael Hernandez is the real deal when it comes to holding 'the other guy' accountable. As a colleague of mine, I've seen firsthand how Michael tackles complex situations with precision, ensuring accountability and getting great results for his clients. His dedication and care for his clients are top-notch. If you need someone who will fight for you and get the job done right, Michael Hernandez is your guy.
paniz allamehpaniz allameh
21:57 22 Apr 24
I consulted with Emma for an employment issue. I was under a lot of stress and she was absolutely kind, patient and compassionate and listened to all the details of my issue. Although this was not a topic of their practice, she spent time providing me several resources that could help me and get me started. I felt cared for by her welcoming communication and not rushed even though she knew she wouldn’t be able to help or make money from my case, that didn’t prevent her from supporting me and give me recommendations. Thank you Emma 🙏
Khala BarkusKhala Barkus
19:33 25 Sep 22
Michael and his team were so great during this entire process. They helped me to get a pretty significant settlement from my case and they were never delayed in any of the processes. I am confident that had I not "fired" the first attorney that I started to work with and called HHJ trail attorneys, I would not have gotten the results that I got with HHJ. You can't go wrong with working with these guys to settle your case.
TylerTyler
21:09 25 Aug 22
Michael and the HHJ staff were extremely helpful from the start of my case less than a year ago. From the time I had my accident, to having doctor appointments set up to the final conclusion, it couldn’t have been a smoother process from beginning to end. Michael is very detailed and organized and always has your best interest at heart. He is very responsive and is always on top of it. I didn’t have to do much other than show up to my doctor appts and respond with info that was needed. I would without a beat use Michael and his team again if needed. HHJ is the best in Southern California!
Claudia LopezClaudia Lopez
21:41 08 Jul 22
Mr. Adam Hepburn and his firm, HHJ Trial Attorneys, took on our legal case. Mr. Adam Hepburn came recommended, luckily. We can't thank Mr. Adam Hepburn and his firm for their stellar work throughout our entire legal case. If I had any questions or concerns, Mr. Adam Hepburn would quickly address my concerns either via email, cell phone or even on text. Mr. Adam Hepburn was very truthful, thoughtful when explaining the facts of my case, and extremely professional. If you're on the fence with hiring Adam Hepburn and his firm, don't be, he's the best in the field. Adam won my case! Must hire him and his firm if you need his type of services.
FergalFergal
15:00 20 Apr 22
Michael and the team at HHJ Trial Attorneys have taken the best care of our Clients after they have being involved in road accidents. The care, attention and commitment they provide to all their clients is extraordinary as are their life enhancing results - HHJ Trial Attorneys = Best In Class.
Anne FranksAnne Franks
14:41 20 Apr 22
Michael at HHJ Trial Attorneys is a professional Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers group. This group is very is highly recommended! They are very professional compared to other firms. If you are looking for a quality group of attorneys that will get the job done, this is the one to call!
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San Diego Wrongful Death Attorneys Fighting for Your Rights

HHJ Trial Attorneys is San Diego’s premier  wrongful death law firm, is dedicated to providing compassionate and skilled legal representation to those who have suffered the tragic loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. With a team of experienced and empathetic attorneys, we understand the profound emotional and financial challenges that accompany such circumstances. Our mission is to guide you through this difficult journey, seeking justice on your behalf and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable for their actions. At HHJ Trial Attorneys, we are committed to helping you find closure and secure the compensation you deserve during this challenging time.

What is a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is a legal concept that refers to a death that has been caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person or entity. This type of legal claim is brought in a civil court by the survivors or the estate of the deceased person to seek monetary damages for their loss. The premise behind a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide financial support for the heirs and to compensate for lost wages, funeral expenses, and emotional distress caused by the untimely death.

To establish a wrongful death, the plaintiff (the party bringing the claim) must prove that the death was caused by the defendant’s (the party being sued) negligent, reckless, or intentional actions and that these actions directly led to the death. This could involve situations such as medical malpractice, car accidents, occupational exposure and accidents, criminal actions, or any other scenario where a duty of care was owed by the defendant to the deceased.

Wrongful death laws vary by jurisdiction, but generally, the right to file a lawsuit is limited to immediate family members such as spouses, children, and parents of unmarried children. In some places, extended family members like siblings and grandparents can also file these claims. The damages awarded in these cases are meant to compensate for both the financial and emotional impact of the death on the family of the deceased. These legal frameworks aim to balance the scales of justice by providing a mechanism for accountability and reparation when a life is lost due to misconduct or negligence.

What Do I Need to Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

To prove liability in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish several key elements. These elements are critical to demonstrating that the defendant’s actions or inactions directly caused the death of the decedent and that the surviving family members or estate suffered damages as a result. Here are the primary components that must be proven:

  1. Duty of Care: The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. This means establishing that the defendant was expected to act in a certain way toward the deceased to avoid causing harm. For example, a doctor has a duty to provide competent medical care to patients, and a driver has a duty to follow traffic laws and operate their vehicle safely.

  2. Breach of Duty: Once a duty of care is established, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached this duty. A breach occurs when the defendant fails to meet the expected standard of care. For instance, if a driver was speeding or a doctor failed to diagnose a treatable condition, these actions would constitute breaches of their respective duties.

  3. Causation: The plaintiff must also demonstrate causation — that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the wrongful death. This involves showing a direct link between the breach and the death. It must be clear that the death would not have occurred if the defendant had acted appropriately. For example, if a faulty product failed and led to a fatal accident, it must be proven that the defect was the cause of the accident and the resulting death.

  4. Damages: Finally, the plaintiff needs to prove that the death resulted in quantifiable damages. This can include medical expenses incurred before the death, funeral and burial costs, loss of income and potential earnings the deceased would have provided, loss of companionship and guidance for family members, and pain and suffering endured by the deceased prior to death.

Collecting evidence is crucial in a wrongful death case. This may include medical records, expert testimonies (such as medical experts or accident reconstruction analysts), eyewitness accounts, and other forms of documentation that can help substantiate the claim.

In essence, proving liability in a wrongful death lawsuit hinges on demonstrating that the defendant’s negligent or intentional acts were the direct cause of the deceased’s death, resulting in significant losses to the survivors or the estate.

What are the Causes for Wrongful Death Cases?

Wrongful death cases in the United States can result from a variety of situations, but there are several leading causes that are most common. These include:

  1. Automobile Accidents: Traffic collisions are among the top causes of wrongful deaths, with tens of thousands of fatalities each year. These often occur due to negligent behaviors like drunk driving, drug impairment, distracted driving, speeding, and other traffic law violations​.

  2. Medical Malpractice: Medical errors are a significant issue, with estimates indicating that they may be the third leading cause of death in the U.S. This can include misdiagnoses, surgical errors, medication mistakes, and failure to provide the appropriate standard of care​.

  3. Assault and Battery: Fatalities resulting from violent crimes can also lead to wrongful death claims. In these cases, a wrongful death claim can be pursued by the victim’s family, irrespective of whether criminal charges are brought against the perpetrator​.

  4. Defective Drugs and Medical Devices: Injuries and deaths caused by defective pharmaceuticals or medical devices can be the basis for wrongful death claims, especially when it can be shown that another party’s actions—like speeding, creating a dangerous drug, or failing to provide proper care—were the cause of death​.

  5. Workplace and Industrial Accidents: This category includes truck and construction site accidents, oil rig and heavy equipment failures, gas leaks or explosions, and electrocutions. Such incidents often occur due to negligence or failure to follow safety protocols​.

  6. A Wide Range of Other Causes: Many other situations can lead to wrongful death claims, including but not limited to motorcycle, boating, and aviation accidents; drowning; product and premises liability; workplace accidents; and accidental poisoning​.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit in San Diego, or anywhere else in the United States, is a legal action filed by the surviving family members or dependents of a person who has died due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another party. The purpose of such a lawsuit is to seek compensation for the damages and losses suffered by the surviving family members as a result of the wrongful death.

Here are some key points to understand about wrongful death lawsuits in San Diego:

  • Legal Basis: Wrongful death claims are typically filed under state law, and the specific laws governing them can vary from one state to another. In California, including San Diego, wrongful death claims are primarily covered under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60-377.62 and California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 3920-3925.
  • Who Can File: In California, certain individuals are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, including surviving spouses, domestic partners, children, and other dependents. If there are no immediate family members, other individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased may also have the right to file a claim.
  • Basis for the Lawsuit: To succeed in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) typically needs to prove that the death of their loved one was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another party. This could include situations such as car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, workplace accidents, or acts of violence.
  • Damages: If successful, a wrongful death lawsuit can result in the awarding of damages to the plaintiffs. These damages can include compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and emotional distress.
  • Statute of Limitations: In California, there is a specific time limit within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. Generally, it’s within two years of the date of the person’s death, but there can be exceptions, so it’s important to consult with an attorney to determine the applicable deadline.
  • Settlement vs. Trial: Many wrongful death cases are resolved through settlement negotiations between the parties involved. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge or jury will determine the outcome.

It’s crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney in San Diego. Our lawyers can guide you through the legal process and help you seek the compensation you may be entitled to if you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s wrongful actions.

What is an Example of a Case Our San Diego Wrongful Death Lawyers Can Handle?

Background: In San Diego, a devastating accident occurred on a problematic section of Montezuma Road near the intersection with College Avenue. This incident resulted in the wrongful death of a local resident, 38-year-old school teacher and mother of two, Jane Doe. The case exemplifies the complexities of pursuing legal action against governmental entities for alleged negligent road design and inadequate maintenance.

The Incident: On a rainy San Diego evening, Jane Doe was navigating Montezuma Road when she lost control of her vehicle at a newly redesigned curve. This specific curve lacked proper signage, adequate street lighting, and featured an improperly engineered bank angle. Her car slid off the road and struck a utility pole, leading to fatal injuries.

Legal Challenge: Jane Doe’s family sought legal representation to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of San Diego, which was responsible for the road’s maintenance and design. The principal legal challenge involved demonstrating that the flawed design and poor maintenance of the road were directly responsible for the accident.

Strategy: The family’s attorneys undertook a detailed investigation, which included:

  • Obtaining accident reports and police documentation.
  • Engaging forensic experts skilled in reconstructing traffic accidents.
  • Collecting statements from other drivers who had experienced issues with the same curve.
  • Reviewing the road’s design plans and comparing them against established safety protocols.

The legal team also used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to access any prior complaints and safety evaluations related to the road’s condition.

Outcome: The lawsuit resulted in a favorable settlement for Jane Doe’s family after rigorous negotiations. The settlement agreement included:

  • A substantial financial compensation for the bereaved family.
  • A commitment from the city to reevaluate and remodel the curve on Montezuma Road.
  • Immediate implementation of enhanced safety measures, such as improved lighting and signage, and adjustment of the curve’s bank angle.

Impact: This case not only secured justice for Jane Doe’s family but also prompted significant safety enhancements on a dangerous section of Montezuma Road. These changes have likely prevented further accidents and underscored the importance of civic responsibility and accountability in urban planning and road safety.

Conclusion: This case study highlights the importance of meticulous investigative and legal strategies in wrongful death cases involving public infrastructure. It showcases the necessity of expert testimony and diligent legal work in proving negligence and obtaining a favorable outcome for the victims’ families.

Who Can Initiate a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit can typically be initiated by specific individuals who are closely related to the deceased person. The exact rules and eligible parties may vary by jurisdiction, but in general, those who can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Immediate Family Members: This often includes surviving spouses and children (both biological and adopted). In some jurisdictions, stepchildren and parents may also be eligible.
  • Domestic Partners: In states that recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions, domestic partners may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Financial Dependents: In some cases, individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased person may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This can include individuals who were financially supported by the deceased, such as elderly parents or adult children.
  • Representatives of the Estate: In some situations, the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate may have the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate and its beneficiaries.
  • Distant Relatives: In certain jurisdictions, distant relatives, such as siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins, may be allowed to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit if there are no immediate family members or dependents eligible to do so.
  • Legal Guardians: If the deceased person was a minor, a legal guardian or custodian may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Designated Beneficiaries: In some states, individuals who were designated as beneficiaries in the deceased person’s will or estate plan for the purpose of bringing a wrongful death claim may be eligible.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

In California, there is a statute of limitations that sets a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in California is generally two years from the date of the person’s death. However, there can be exceptions and variations depending on the circumstances of the case. Here are a few important points to consider:

  • Standard Statute of Limitations: As mentioned, the standard statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California is two years from the date of the person’s death. It means that you generally have two years from the date of the death to initiate a legal action.
  • Discovery Rule: In some cases, the discovery rule may apply. This rule allows the statute of limitations to start running from the date when the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the death was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another party. This rule is typically used when the cause of death was not immediately apparent.
  • Government Entities: If the wrongful death claim is against a government entity, such as a city or county, there are specific rules and deadlines that must be followed. Generally, a government tort claim must be filed within six months of the date of the incident.
  • Minors: If the deceased person was a minor at the time of death, the statute of limitations may be extended. Typically, a minor has two years from the date of their 18th birthday to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Extension in Certain Cases: In exceptional circumstances, there may be grounds for extending the statute of limitations, but these cases are rare, and you should consult with an attorney to explore such possibilities.

Failing to file a lawsuit within the prescribed time frame may result in the loss of your right to seek compensation for your loss, so it’s important to act promptly and within the applicable time limits.

What Type of Compensation Can I Receive from a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the types of compensation that you may be eligible to receive can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, as well as the laws of the jurisdiction in which the lawsuit is filed. However, the following are common types of compensation that can typically be sought in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Funeral and Burial Expenses: The costs associated with the funeral and burial of the deceased person are often recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Medical Expenses: If the deceased incurred medical expenses related to the injury or illness that led to their death, these expenses may be compensable.
  • Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the financial support they would have received from the deceased had they not died. This can include lost income, benefits, and other forms of financial assistance.
  • Loss of Companionship and Consortium: Family members may seek compensation for the emotional suffering and loss of companionship resulting from the death of their loved one.
  • Pain and Suffering: Some jurisdictions allow for compensation related to the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their death.
  • Loss of Guidance and Moral Support: The value of the guidance, moral support, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided to family members can be considered in some cases.

In cases where the responsible party’s actions were especially reckless, intentional, or egregious, punitive damages may be awarded. These damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.

In some jurisdictions, the prevailing party in a wrongful death lawsuit may be entitled to recover their reasonable attorney’s fees and litigation costs.

What is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and Criminal Charges?

A wrongful death lawsuit and criminal charges are two distinct legal actions that address different aspects of a person’s death, and they have different purposes, standards of proof, and potential outcomes. Here are the key differences between the two:

Purpose and Parties Involved
Wrongful Death Lawsuit: A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil legal action filed by the surviving family members or dependents of the deceased person against another party, typically seeking financial compensation for their losses and damages resulting from the death. In a wrongful death case, the plaintiffs (the family members or dependents) are seeking monetary compensation from the defendant (the person or entity responsible for the death).

Criminal Charges: Criminal charges are brought by the government (typically the prosecutor’s office) against a defendant alleged to have committed a crime. The purpose of criminal charges is to punish the defendant for violating the law and to protect society. In criminal cases, the state or government is the prosecuting party, and the defendant may face penalties such as fines, probation, imprisonment, or other criminal sanctions if found guilty.

Standard of Proof:

Wrongful Death Lawsuit: In a wrongful death lawsuit, the standard of proof is typically “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that the plaintiffs must show that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s actions or negligence caused the death. This is a lower standard of proof than in criminal cases.

Criminal Charges: In criminal cases, the standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is a much higher burden of proof, requiring the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty to such a high degree of certainty that there is no reasonable doubt of their guilt.

Penalties and Outcomes:

Wrongful Death Lawsuit: If successful in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs may be awarded monetary compensation, including damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of financial support, emotional distress, and more. The primary goal is financial restitution.

Criminal Charges: In a criminal case, if the defendant is found guilty, they may face penalties such as fines, probation, parole, or imprisonment. The outcome focuses on punishment and potential rehabilitation of the defendant, and the defendant’s criminal record may be affected.

Parties Responsible:

Wrongful Death Lawsuit: The defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit can be an individual, a company, or an entity whose actions or negligence led to the death. Liability is typically based on civil law principles related to negligence or intentional misconduct.

Criminal Charges: Criminal charges are typically brought against individuals, and the government acts as the prosecuting party. The charges can range from homicide (e.g., murder or manslaughter) to other criminal offenses depending on the circumstances.

It’s important to note that these legal processes can run concurrently or separately, and the outcome of one does not dictate the outcome of the other. For example, a defendant may be found not guilty in a criminal trial but still held liable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Similarly, a defendant may be found guilty in a criminal trial but not held liable in a civil wrongful death case. The two legal processes serve different purposes and have different standards of proof.

Why Should a Person File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a significant decision, and individuals typically consider pursuing such a lawsuit for several important reasons:

  • Accountability: Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the responsible party accountable for their actions or negligence that led to the death of your loved one. It can ensure that the person or entity responsible is legally recognized as such and may face financial consequences.
  • Financial Compensation: Wrongful death lawsuits seek financial compensation for the losses and damages suffered by the surviving family members or dependents. This compensation can help cover various expenses, including funeral and burial costs, medical bills, and the loss of financial support.
  • Closure and Justice: Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can provide a sense of closure and justice for the family. It allows them to seek a legal remedy for the harm caused and to have their day in court to present their case.
  • Deterrence: Holding negligent or reckless parties accountable through legal action can serve as a deterrent. It may discourage similar behavior or negligence in the future, potentially preventing others from suffering a similar tragedy.
  • Preventing Future Harm: In cases where the wrongful death resulted from a product defect or a dangerous condition, a lawsuit can help bring attention to the issue and potentially lead to changes in safety standards or product recalls, thereby preventing future harm to others.
  • Protecting Rights: By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members protect their legal rights and ensure that they have an opportunity to seek compensation if they believe their loved one’s death was caused by another party’s wrongdoing.
  • Closure and Healing: The legal process can provide a structured means for the family to address their grief, seek answers to questions surrounding the death, and begin the healing process.
  • Financial Security: For many families, the financial compensation obtained through a wrongful death lawsuit can provide a degree of financial security. It can help replace the income and support lost due to the death of the breadwinner or primary caregiver.
  • Seeking Answers: In some cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can help uncover the truth about what happened and why, providing answers and closure for the family.

It’s important to remember that a wrongful death lawsuit is a complex legal process, and success is not guaranteed. Each case is unique, and the outcome depends on the specific circumstances and the strength of the evidence. Consulting with an experienced San Diego wrongful death attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases is essential to evaluate the merits of the case and navigate the legal process effectively. An attorney can provide guidance, advocate on behalf of the family, and help them make informed decisions about pursuing legal action.

Trust HHJ as Your Wrongful Death Attorneys in San Diego

When you work with HHJ Trial Attorneys, you have the peace of mind of knowing that your case is in excellent hands. Our lawyers go above and beyond to ensure that you have the support and legal guidance that you need to get the results that you deserve when it comes to wrongful death matters. If you or a loved one believe that you may have a wrongful death lawsuit, please get in touch with us today! 

 

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