In some ways, the grief of a wrongful death is even more challenging to cope with than losing a loved one to a terminal illness or natural causes. Your loved one’s death could have been avoided if someone else had fulfilled their duty to use reasonable care. When someone else’s negligence causes the death of your family member, you may have a legal claim worth pursuing.
Whether your loved one was killed in an auto accident or while at work, seeking compensation through a wrongful death claim can help ease the financial burden of associated costs. Above all else, it may be comforting to know that the liable party will bear responsibility for the devastation they’ve caused, and by taking action, you may potentially prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else. The following information will explain California laws relevant to wrongful death cases and help you determine if you have a viable claim.
What Does Wrongful Death Mean Under California Law?
Per the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60, wrongful death is when a third party’s wrongful act or neglect results in someone’s death. This may include people or organizations whose careless, negligent, or intentional behaviors completely disregard the welfare of others. To prove wrongful death, you must establish these elements:
- The defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care to the deceased person
- The defendant failed to perform the duty owed to the deceased person
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused the death
- The deceased person’s surviving family members suffered compensable losses due to the defendant’s breach of duty
While these elements seem straightforward, collecting compelling evidence to prove an act of negligence contributed to the wrongful death of your loved one takes time. This is why it’s imperative that you act fast, as the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.1 puts a two-year time limit from the date of death on filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Even if the above elements are proven, not all family members are eligible to file a wrongful death claim in California. The only surviving family members that qualify to pursue a claim include:
- The deceased person’s spouse
- The deceased person’s domestic partner
- The deceased person’s children
- The issue of deceased children, or, if this does not apply, then the deceased person’s siblings, parents, or legal guardians may be entitled to inherit the deceased person’s property
In addition, those financially dependent on the deceased person, including the putative spouse and their children, stepchildren, or parents, may also bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent individual or party.
What Types of Damages Are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?
In California, the court has the discretion to award certain types of damages, and each eligible surviving family member may be considered differently depending on their personal circumstances. Generally, surviving family members may be awarded the following economic and non-economic damages:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income and benefits the deceased person would have earned
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of intangible support, such as love, companionship, parental guidance, and moral support
Other losses that surviving family members may seek is the loss of services such as childcare, house cleaning, cooking, and other everyday contributions the deceased person provided. In California, losses like pain and suffering or punitive damages are not considered in wrongful death claims. Those would have to be pursued in a survival action claim.
Contact a Trusted California Wrongful Death Lawyer
Everyone goes through the grieving process differently, but when you lose your family member in a traumatic way, you’re likely feeling a range of emotions—from disbelief and shock to anger and sadness. Unfortunately, there’s no magic button you can push to make this all go away.
What you may be able to do is attain the monetary compensation you and your family deserve. Stay strong for your family while entrusting your case to an experienced and compassionate California wrongful death lawyer.
At the Law Offices of JG Winter, we can guide you through these distressing times. For more than 30 years, our passion for justice and strong work ethic have allowed us to achieve the results our clients need. Request a free consultation by completing a contact form or calling 844-734-2626.