What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

person laying roses on a gravestone

When someone commits a wrongful act that results in harm, he or she can be found guilty in a civil lawsuit. But what happens when that harm is the death of another person? In California when someone dies as a result of negligence or a wrongful act conducted by a person or entity the survivors of the deceased or the personal representative of the deceased’s personal estate can bring a civil lawsuit called a “wrongful death claim.” If the court finds for the plaintiffs (those bringing the claim), the court will order the defendant to pay the survivors.

A wrongful death case is different than a criminal homicide case in that the deceased’s survivors or representative brings a case for wrongful death, while a criminal case for homicide is brought by the state. A civil and a criminal case can be brought simultaneously as one has no bearing on the other. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

It’s important to note that only certain people can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Such people include the deceased’s:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Surviving children

Should there exist no surviving person, a wrongful death lawsuit can then be brought by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession. This can include the deceased’s parents, siblings, or individuals alive at the time of the decedent’s death. 

Additionally, there are others who can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California if they can demonstrate that they were financially dependent upon the deceased individual. These individuals include the deceased’s:

  • Putative (accepted) spouse” and the children of the putative spouse
  • Stepchildren 
  • Parents

Financial Damages Available

There are a variety of different personal injury damages available, but the specific amount that they will receive is dependent on the facts of each case. There are different factors taken into consideration such as:

  • Medical/hospital bills for the deceased individual’s final injury or illness;
  • Lost income/potential earnings;
  • Value of household services;
  • Loss of anticipated financial support; and
  • Loss of love, attention, community, moral support, affection, guidance, etc. 

Is There a Time Limit to Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

As with all personal injury claims in California, wrongful death claims must be filed within a certain period of time known as the “statute of limitations.” Once the statute of limitations has passed, the family essentially forfeits the right to bring a claim. A wrongful death claim in California must be filed within two years of the date of the deceased’s death. 

Contact a Qualified Personal Injury Attorney

If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful act, there must be consequences to pay. When you are already grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing you should have to worry about is how you are going to manage your financial situation. That’s why it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. 

At the Law Offices of David P. Kashani, our experienced California personal injury lawyers work strategically to help our clients obtain just compensation. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing that our legal team is on your side. We will guide you through all aspects of your wrongful death claim. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us today!

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