No one deserves the mental anguish and economic losses from the wrongful death of a loved one. If you or someone close to you has suffered such a loss, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for their untimely passing.
The Wrongful Death Act is designed to compensate families who suffer financial hardship due to the death of a family member. It allows them to recover damages for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased before their demise, as well as any other losses incurred after that time.
The Wrongful Death Act is found in Civil Code section 377.60 et seq., which provides a cause of action for “wrongful death.” This includes deaths caused by negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, fraud, intentional misconduct, or criminal conduct.
If your loved one or someone close to you has lost their life due to another person’s act or failure to act, you may bring a California wrongful death claim against them. An experienced wrongful death attorney at AttorneyJeff can help you determine if this type of case applies to your situation and, if so, what actions you should take next.
What is Wrongful Death in California?
As in most states, California deems wrongful death as the act of causing the death of an individual without justification or excuse. In other words, a wrongful death claim arises when one person dies due to another party’s act or failure to act. These acts or failures to act may fall into the following categories:
- Medical malpractice
- Negligence-based acts like car accidents
- Intentional acts or malice
To qualify for a wrongful death claim, the deceased must have been killed due to another person’s negligent, reckless, fraudulent, intentional, or criminally negligent act. For example, if a doctor negligently performs surgery on a patient, resulting in the patient’s death, the doctor could potentially face liability for the wrongful death of his patient.
Please note, however, that a wrongful death case is not the same as a criminal homicide case. The latter is usually punishable by prison/jail time, probation, and other sanctions. On the flip side, a wrongful death lawsuit is meant to compensate the deceased’s family members for their loss. This compensation includes funeral expenses, medical bills, and more damages that we’ll cover later.
How Does The Wrongful Death Act Apply To My Case?
To pursue a wrongful death claim successfully, you must be eligible under the California wrongful death statute. Put simply, you must be:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The deceased’s surviving children and/or
- The grandchildren of any deceased child of the victim
N/B: If the deceased has no surviving person in their line of descent, the wrongful death claim may be brought by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” If you’re wondering, that may comprise the decedent’s parents or siblings, depending on who is alive by the time of the wrongful death.
But that’s not all; the following individuals may also file a wrongful death suit if they can prove that they had a direct financial dependency on the deceased:
- The decedent’s legal guardians (if the parents had died)
- The decedent’s “putative spouse” (someone who entered the marriage in good faith and had a mistaken belief that they were legally married to the decedent)
- The putative spouse’s children
- The deceased person’s parents
- The deceased person’s stepchildren
If I am Eligible Under The Wrongful Death Statute, What Should I Do Next?
If you are eligible under the wrongful death statute, you may proceed with filing a wrongful death claim. However, before doing so, it is crucial to understand how such claims work. According to the law, there are two types of wrongful death cases:
Survival Action Lawsuit
These are suits filed by the deceased’s beneficiaries against third parties who caused the death. Such lawsuits seek to recover a financial award that the decedent would have received had they survived or lived after the incident. For example, if your loved one dies in a car accident, you may file a survival action lawsuit to recover the money they would have earned during their lifetime.
Wrongful Death Suit
This type of lawsuit seeks to recover monetary damages from the responsible party(s). It does not require proving that the victim would have survived, but rather that the victim was alive at the time of the incident.
Therefore, it’s in your best interests to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced wrongful death lawyer can help you determine what type of wrongful death suit you should pursue, given your particular circumstances.
What Damages Can I Recover in a California Wrongful Death Case?
“Damages” refer to the compensation – economic and non-economic alike – that you may be entitled to for the wrongful death of your loved one. These may vary depending on the specific facts of your case. Let’s take a closer look:
You may receive the following economic damages to cover your losses:
- The financial aid the decedent would have provided to the family in their lifetime
- Any gifts or benefits the survivors would have expected to receive from the deceased
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The reasonable value of household help the decedent would have provided in their lifetime
Non-economic damages comprise any non-monetary benefit that the decedent might have enjoyed during their life. Examples include:
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
In addition, you may also be able to collect punitive damages if the defendant acted maliciously or fraudulently.
California Wrongful Death FAQs
How long do I have to file a wrongful death claim in California?
The California statute of limitations for wrongful death is two years from the time of the decedent’s death.
Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit even though my loved one died outside of California?
Yes. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California regardless of where the decedent died. This is also true for all personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Do I need an attorney to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Yes, you will need an experienced wrongful death attorney licensed to practice in California to represent you in court. Doing so will ensure that you get the maximum compensation available under the law.
Attorney Jeff is Here to Help!
At Attorney Jeff, we understand how devastating losing a loved one is, so we strive to provide compassionate legal counsel throughout every step of our process. Our goal is to ensure that you don’t just get good representation; you get excellent representation.
We’ll answer your questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in CA and discuss how we can help you obtain justice. If you’re looking for a reliable California wrongful death lawyer, call us at (888) 670-3792 to schedule a free consultation. Alternatively, you can fill out our online contact form, and we’ll get back to you ASAP!