In California, the current wrongful death laws allow almost any surviving family member to file a wrongful death claim to compensation for their loss. Suppose someone’s actions resulted in the death of your loved one, whether their death was a result of an act of negligence (such as a drunk driving accident) or malice (as in murder), the remaining family could receive compensation. In that case, this compensation will attempt to compensate for the loss of income, pain & suffering, and much more. Although mere money may never replace your loved one, payment is still sought to ease the real-world financial burdens that can occur from their loss.
Typically, if the loved one is married, their surviving spouse will file the lawsuit. However, there are times that If the decedent were an adult, the state would also allow an adult child to file the lawsuit.
Coping with the loss of your loved one usually is one of the most challenging, emotional, and stressful times in any family’s history. The fact that your loved one’s death was the result of someone else’s negligent actions or wrongdoings makes it even more catastrophic.
Legally speaking, however, In California, a wrongful death claim is filed when one person dies because of the legal fault of another person or entity. These “faults” may include:
- Negligence – incidents like car accidents or even severe slip & falls.
- Medical malpractice – such as apparent misdiagnoses or medical negligence.
- Intentional acts – Including crimes (murder) or other actions of violence.
As with any personal injury lawsuit, the defendant’s liability in these wrongful death cases is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation ( or “damages”), which the court orders the defendant to pay to your loved one’s survivors. This is the principal legal difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and most criminal homicide cases. In a criminal homicide case, the perpetrator will receive a jail or prison sentence, probation, and other sanctions.
California’s current wrongful death laws state that the following people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the civil courts:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner.
- The decedent’s surviving children.
- Even, in some cases, the grandchildren of any deceased child of the deceased.
These cases are legally complex, and correctly calculating the monetary loss of life can include many issues, details, and overall family needs. Consulting with a Rosemead wrongful death lawyer is mandatory so that your case is formulated to meet the current needs of those left behind by your loved ones’ death.
If I Am Not a “Blood” Relative of the Deceased, Am I Still Eligible to File?
If the deceased person has few or no family left in their line of descent, a wrongful death lawsuit could be filed by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” This could include the deceased person’s grandparents or the dead person’s stepchildren, depending on who is living at the time of the deceased person’s death.
Suppose they can show they were financially dependent on the deceased and the above-identified and usual family individuals. In that case, the following people may also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The decedent may have had a “putative spouse” defined as someone who had good faith but mistaken belief that they were in a lawful marriage with the deceased.
In this case, the following people could file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Any children of the decedent’s putative spouse.
- The deceased person’s stepchildren.
- The dead person’s parents or grandparents.
- Any legal guardian of the decedent if the parents are deceased.
It must be stressed, however, that these cases can be highly complex, but if you feel that you have suffered a loss due to a “partner’s” death, consulting with a professional California wrongful death lawyer will get you all the answers and aid that you need and are rightfully entitled to.
Is There a “Statute of Limitations” for Filing My Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?
The simple answer is yes, as with most lawsuits, wrongful death claims must be filed within a specific time window, set by California law. This is known as the “statute of limitations” for filing wrongful death lawsuits and usually mandates a filing deadline of two years from the date of your loved one’s death. If your case is not initiated and filed in the civil court system within two years, then you may lose the right to file it at all.
There are specific and rare exceptions to this deadline, and a professional, knowledgeable wrongful death personal injury lawyer will be able to provide you with the qualified advice you need if you face this situation.
What Are Examples of “Damages” I Could Receive From a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
“Damages” would pertain to your claimed losses in any personal injury case, including a wrongful death lawsuit. The California civil courts have specific guidelines for these damages, and your lawyer will professionally advise you of what you ask for and be able to receive.
This calculation is detailed but commonly falls into economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages can include:
- Any financial support your loved one would have contributed to the family, including any future support reduced to present cash value.
- All losses of gifts or benefits that you would have expected to receive from the decedent.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- The decedent’s household services would have provided sound and just monetary value.
Non-economic damages may include the following impacts on the family:
- Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and continued moral support.
- The spouse or partner’s loss of the enjoyment of intimacy with the decedent.
- The loss of the decedent’s guidance and emotional support.
These are only examples, and it’s important to note that each case is detailed and specific and must be presented to the courts professionally and with the empathy it deserves.
I Feel I Have To Files a Wrongful Death Claim, How Should I Proceed?
If you are currently suffering through the loss of a loved one, there are many details to deal with and crushing emotions and stress. Whatever you do, don’t try to go through this process alone. The experienced, professional, and empathetic wrongful death lawyers at the Rosemead Law Office of Daniel Deng know what it takes to obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve and are entitled to. Consult with them as soon as possible and help ease the financial burdens this calamitous and appalling situation has inflicted on you and your family.