Can I Sue for Wrongful Death in California?

Have you experienced the death of someone you love in an accident? If that accident was caused by another person’s negligence, you may feel anger at the senselessness of your loved one’s death. You may also wonder how to seek justice.

In the United States, our legal system is divided into two parts: criminal and civil. Either or both of these can provide justice when someone is killed, though only a civil lawsuit can provide your family with the money you need. 

If the person who caused your loved one’s death broke a law, the State of California may charge them criminally. Criminal charges can punish offenders by taking their liberty and putting them in prison. However, to help your family after your loved one’s death, you need to bring a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim can compensate the family for their harm after their loved one’s wrongful death. California law defines wrongful death as a person’s death caused by someone’s wrongful act or negligence. If your loved one suffered a wrongful death and their death harmed you or your family, you may be able to take legal action. This legal action is a civil lawsuit that seeks monetary compensation for the harm your family suffered.  

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in California? 

If you’re wondering who can sue for wrongful death in California, you’ll be relieved to know that the list is long. The California Code of Civil Procedure lists these people who can file a wrongful death claim:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner;
  • The decedent’s surviving children;
  • The decedent’s surviving grandchildren, if the decedent’s children are no longer alive;
  • The decedent’s stepchildren; 
  • The decedent’s parents; and
  • A dependent minor even if the minor wasn’t related to the decedent.

If none of these relatives are alive, the people entitled to inherit the decedent’s estate through intestate succession may file a wrongful death claim. The decedent’s personal representative may also file a claim. Consultation with a skilled attorney can help determine if your relationship to the deceased person qualifies you to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Damages Are Available?

A wrongful death lawsuit provides damages to both the estate and the family. The estate is eligible for reimbursement of expenses related to the person’s death, such as: 

  • Funeral and burial expenses,
  • Medical bills, and
  • Loss of income.

Loss of income includes the wages lost after the accident but before death.

While the estate receives compensation for the financial losses suffered by the person who died, the family can request compensation for the financial and emotional harm they suffered as a result of the death. These damages could include:

  • Emotional pain and suffering,
  • Lost future earnings,
  • Loss of inheritance, and
  • Loss of companionship, care, and support.

Some of these damages can be difficult to calculate. How do you place a monetary value on a relationship with a loved one? It seems impossible to add up your loss. However, our experienced attorneys can help you calculate a reasonable damages request based on our decades of experience advocating for families.

When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim?

You can file a wrongful death claim as soon as your loved one dies from a wrongful death. However, an experienced attorney might advise you to wait until you can get a better grasp of damages. Even if you aren’t ready to file a claim soon after your loved one’s death, we can advise you on steps to take to improve your chances of a successful lawsuit.

Also, be aware that you must act fairly quickly to file a claim. The California statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim is two years from your loved one’s death. This means that if you file a lawsuit more than two years after your loved one dies, the court could toss out your case. Contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible so that you don’t risk having your case dismissed under the statute of limitations.

What’s the Difference Between a Wrongful Death and Survival Claim?

When evaluating legal options, you have different claims to consider. For instance, you might consider these legal actions and decide which fits best with your circumstances:

  • A wrongful death claim to compensate the family for the harm they suffered due to their loved one’s death, or 
  • A survival claim to compensate the estate for the harm the deceased suffered while alive.

There are important considerations between these two claims. For instance, punitive damages aren’t available under a wrongful death claim, but they may be available under a survival claim.

Why Do You Need an Attorney?

If you have lost your loved one due to someone’s negligence or intentional action, you need an attorney to fight for you. A knowledgeable attorney can explain California law, including different legal options available to you. An attorney can also hire skilled investigators and expert witnesses to help prove your claim. 

When you are grieving and trying to make ends meet, you don’t need to negotiate with an insurance company on your own. An attorney can take over insurance company negotiations and give you and your family the time and space to process and begin to heal.

At Wells Call, our passionate attorneys have helped victims and family members for decades. With offices in six California cities, we live and work in this area. We provide personalized, compassionate legal representation and work hard to get your family maximum compensation.

Contact us at 707-302-8029 for a free consultation where we can discuss your case. If you decide to hire us, we work on contingency, meaning you don’t owe us anything until we successfully settle your case. Your loved one didn’t deserve what happened, but you deserve justice. We are ready to help you pursue justice through compensation for you and your family.

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