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Wrongful Death Claims in California

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November 04, 2017
Edward Smith


Wrongful Death Claims in California

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. A wrongful death in California means that an individual died due to the negligence or a wrongful act by another individual or entity. A wrongful death is not a criminal lawsuit and is presented in civil court by the family of the deceased person. In the event the person responsible for the decedent is under criminal investigation for the act or has been convicted, a wrongful death action may still be taken to recover financial damages.

Filing for Wrongful Death in California

Under the California Code for Civil Procedure section 337.60, those who file a wrongful death lawsuit must have a strong connection to the deceased party in order to claim damages. This includes the following:

  • Spouse, domestic partner or putative spouse. The putative spouse is one who believed that there was a legitimate marriage but there are no documents saying so.
  • Children from the marriage, stepchildren who depended on the decedent for at least 50 percent of their financial support and other minors who were dependent on the deceased for 50 percent of their support but were not necessarily related by blood. In the last category, the minors must have lived in the household for at least 180 days.
  • Grandchildren of the decedent, including any children of the decedent’s children who are deceased themselves
  • Parents if they were dependent on the decedent for financial support
  • When there are no surviving family members to file a lawsuit who are in the line of descent, then parents, brothers and sisters or anyone else who would be entitled to inherit the decedent’s property may file.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Financial loss due to the death of the decedent constitutes the damages that can be obtained. This covers different areas of loss, such as:

  • Funeral cost
  • End-of-life medical care
  • Loss of the support the decedent would have supplied the family
  • Lost inheritance
  • Lost benefits such as retirement the individual would have received
  • Loss of future earnings
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress the death caused
  • Loss of companionship

Punitive Damages

When the decedent died due to grossly negligent or intentional wrongdoing, punitive damages may be recouped. Such damages are also often used to prevent similar actions by the wrongdoer in the future. However, in California, punitive damages are only recoverable through a survival action lawsuit.

Survivor Actions

Survivor actions represent a personal injury lawsuit filed for the decedent for damages that he or she suffered before their death. By its nature it requires that the individual suffered economic loss prior to death. It covers the pain and suffering the decedent consciously felt. The damages may be structured to include the extent and duration of the pain and the decedent’s knowledge that death was imminent.

Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

California has a strict limit on the time within which you may file a wrongful death claim. This statute of limitations is two years from the time the person died. If the death was due to medical malpractice, the statute of limitation is for three years or one year from the time of its discovery. If the death is due to government negligence, you have six months to file a claim against the government.

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Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. All accidents can have serious consequences; however, it is devastating when you lose a family member due to the negligence of another person. If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another individual, call me in Sacramento at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 494-5400 if you live outside the area. I am here for you in your time of difficulty with my friendly, free advice.

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After working as an injury lawyer for 35 years, I have represented many citizens of Northern California, including Sacramento, with their wrongful death claims and traumatic injury cases to be awarded fair compensation for their losses.

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