| Read Time: 4 minutes | Wrongful Death
who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in california

Losing a loved one is always difficult, but losing a loved one at the hands of someone else’s negligence is tragic.

It can be particularly devastating and overwhelming if you rely on your loved one for financial support.

You may be anxious and worried about how you will pay your bills without their income.

If you recently lost a beloved family member, you might be wondering, can a family sue for wrongful death?

The answer, generally, is yes. A surviving family member can file a wrongful death claim in California. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

You have likely heard the phrase “wrongful death” before, but may not understand just what it is and how to pursue a claim.

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit brought by a deceased individual’s surviving family members or their estate. It is intended to financially compensate the surviving family members for losing their loved one due to someone else’s negligence.

Examples of accidents or conduct that can lead to a wrongful death action include the following:

If you recently lost a loved one and believe the negligence or intentional misconduct of someone else caused their death, we strongly encourage you to speak with a California wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

In California, surviving family members or the estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages when a person dies as the result of someone else’s conduct, including negligent, reckless, or intentional acts.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

If you file a wrongful death lawsuit, it will typically proceed just as any other personal injury claim, and you will have the burden of proving your case.

While a wrongful death claim can arise out of an individual’s intentional or even criminal acts, most rely on proving negligence. You must show the individual’s negligence caused the death of the deceased person by proving:

  • The individual owed the decedent a reasonable duty of care,
  • That individual breached their duty, and
  • That person’s breach caused the decedent’s death, and you suffered damages.

Proving these elements may sound straightforward, but they can be complex and require extensive investigation, discovery, and litigation.

Sometimes, evidence and proof of fault are clear, but often, the connection between the accident and the defendant’s death is much less obvious. Our experienced attorneys can help you prove your case and seek justice for your loved one.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit – How Long Do I Have?

In California, you generally have two years from the date your loved one died to file your lawsuit. This timeline can be significantly shorter or longer, depending on certain circumstances.

When you are in the midst of grief, you may not initially think of filing a lawsuit, but as time goes on and bills add up, you may be worried about what to do.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. You should consult with a seasoned wrongful death attorney immediately to preserve your rights.

What Compensation Is Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Most damages available to a successful plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit are the same as those in a personal injury lawsuit.

However, some damages are unique to wrongful death claims. For instance, damages available in wrongful death actions but not in personal injury lawsuits include:

  • The value of lost companionship,
  • Funeral and burial expenses,
  • Lost anticipated inheritance,
  • Lost value of household services,
  • Lost value of childcare, and
  • The emotional pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members.

You can also seek compensatory damages in other personal injury claims, such as economic and noneconomic damages. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate you for your financial loss by losing your family member. 

Medical Expenses

Almost all wrongful death actions will involve some degree of medical bills because most accident victims will receive medical care after their accident and before their death. 

Medical expenses can include bills for:

  • Emergency care, 
  • Surgery, 
  • Inpatient hospital stays, and
  • Rehabilitation facility costs. 

The surviving family member can seek reimbursement for these costs.

Past & Future Lost Wages

Seeking adequate and ample compensation for lost anticipated earnings is one of the most crucial parts of a wrongful death claim, especially if you relied on the decedent’s income for financial support.

For instance, if your spouse was the sole financial provider for your family, your reliance on that income to support your family is in great trouble if they pass away. That income will no longer be there to pay the mortgage, school tuition, grocery bills, etc. 

Calculating future lost wages can be complex because predicting what an individual may have earned throughout their life can be challenging. Insurance adjusters and the courts will  generally look to several factors to help calculate future lost income, including:

  • The age and health condition of the decedent at the time of their death;
  • The anticipated financial needs of the decedent’s spouse and minor children, if there are any; and
  • The decedent’s earning capacity.

Negotiating fair compensation requires knowledge and skill. It is important to ensure that you will have the financial means necessary in the future. Our team can help you. 

Noneconomic Damages

In a wrongful death lawsuit, you may also seek compensation for noneconomic damages, including:

  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional and mental anguish,
  • Loss of consortium, and
  • Loss of companionship and parental guidance. 

Because these damages are personal to you, it can be challenging to agree on a number with the insurance company or defendant.

An insurance company will try to put a dollar amount on your pain and suffering, which often falls short of what you deserve.

Our seasoned wrongful death lawyer can help you negotiate a fair amount or prove these damages at trial if necessary.

Contact a California Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

At Peerali Law, we believe in helping good people seek justice. We routinely obtain six and seven-figure results for our clients and their families.

If you recently lost a loved one because of someone else’s actions, let us fight for you. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation.

Author Photo

Kristopher earned his J.D. at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law where he was a member of the Review of Law and Social Justice honors law journal and was awarded several scholastic honors.

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