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What You Should Know About a Wrongful Death Claim in California

Wrongful Death Claim in California

Under California law, a person’s death can be considered a wrongful death if it was caused as a result of another person’s or entity’s wrongful actions. The most common examples of wrongful deaths include:

  • Car crashes in which a person is killed as a result of a driver’s wrongful or negligent actions – distracted driving, speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving while fatigued.
  • Slip and fall accidents in which a person is killed due to the negligence or wrongful actions of the person who owns the property or the person who is in charge of maintaining the property.
  • Deaths caused as a result of medical misconduct, negligence, or malpractice.
  • Deaths caused by defective or faulty products.

California’s laws allow the family members of the wrongful death victim to file a civil lawsuit against the person or entity responsible and recover damages.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

According to Section 377.60 of California Code of Civil Procedure, the following persons have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault person or entity.

  • The spouse or domestic partner of the victim
  • Children of the victim
  • Grandchildren of the victim (only if the victim’s spouse and children are deceased)

If the victim’s spouse, children, and grandchildren are not alive, the following persons have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault parties.

  • Parents of the victim
  • Stepchildren
  • Putative spouse
  • Children of the putative spouse
  • Any minor who was living in the victim’s household – at least for 180 days – before the victim’s death and was dependent on the victim for 50% of their financial needs.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim 

According to Section 335.1 of California Code of Civil Procedure, a wrongful death lawsuit needs to be filed within two years from the date of the victim’s death. If not, the victim’s family will lose the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit in court.

Damage Recoverable Under a Wrongful Death Claim

  • Medical expenses, if any, associated with treating the victim shortly before their death
  • Funeral or burial expenses
  • Loss of earnings caused as a result of the victim’s death
  • The financial support provided by the victim to their family before their death
  • Pecuniary losses (deprivation of the affection, nurturing, guidance, and services provided by the victim to their family)
  • Loss of consortium caused by the victim’s death

Watch YouTube Video: What is a Wrongful Death Claim? The video below explains more about a wrongful death lawsuit.

Proving Wrongful Death in California

To be able to win a wrongful death lawsuit, you are required to show the following things.

  • A person died
  • The negligence or wrongful actions of another person or entity (the defendant) caused the death
  • You and the rest of your family have suffered losses (financial and otherwise) as a result of the victim’s death

This is why you need to hire an experienced wrongful death attorney in California who can collect the necessary evidence to prove that your loved one’s death was indeed caused as a result of the defendant’s actions.

Generally, it is easier to establish the guilt of the defendant in a civil case (which is what a wrongful death lawsuit is) compared to a criminal case. In a criminal case, the defendant’s guilt must be proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ In a civil case, you are only required to prove that there is a 51% chance that the defendant’s actions led to the death of the victim.

Dividing the Settlement among Family Members

Upon winning the lawsuit, you can share the settlement amount equally – or as you deem fit – with your family members. If you are not able to reach a consensus on how much each of you should receive, you can seek the help of a mediator who can help you reach an agreement on how the compensation must be distributed among your family members.

If you are still not able to agree with each other, the civil court can use its authority to distribute the settlement amount among your family members, based on your financial needs.

Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer. If you have lost a loved one in an accident due to another’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation from the at-fault party. A dedicated Sacramento wrongful death attorney will provide the right legal advice and support to help you obtain maximum damages. Call (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

We are proud members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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