When someone dies because of the careless, negligent or intentional acts of others, California law permits family members to claim wrongful death damages in a civil lawsuit.
A California wrongful death case can arise from a number of different situations, such as: motor vehicle accidents; construction site accidents; defective consumer products; slip and fall injuries; nursing home abuse and neglect; medical malpractice; murder; and assault and battery.
In 2010 (the most recent year for complete data), there were 10,108 accidental deaths in California, making it the 6th leading cause of death in the state. Also in 2010, there were 1,908 intentional deaths in California (the 14th leading cause of death). Across the country, accidental deaths in 2011 were the 5th leading cause of death (122,777 in total).
A wrongful death case usually involves a surviving spouse and minor children, but in certain circumstances California law also permits domestic partners, parents, brothers and sisters, and stepchildren to seek damages.
Help With Your Wrongful Death Claim
Pursuing a California wrongful death claim can be complicated, especially as it relates to monetary damages. If you have a loved one that has passed away because of the careless or intentional actions of others, contact the California wrongful death attorneys at Avrek Law Firm, at 1.888.333.5009 to schedule an appointment to discuss your potential legal rights. You have no obligation and can receive a free case evaluation with an experienced and caring attorney.
We are based in Irvine and serve clients in Irvine, surrounding communities in Orange County, as well as Riverside and surrounding communities in Riverside County. Your initial consultation is always free, and you don’t pay legal fees until you obtain monetary compensation in a settlement or court verdict.
Who Is Entitled To A Wrongful Death Recovery In California?
California law allows certain heirs to file a wrongful death lawsuit (California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60). The law extends to surviving spouses, domestic partners, children, or, if no children are involved, the individuals, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled under California law to an inheritance in the absence of a will.
The law also permits a putative spouse (someone who believes in good faith that they are married to the decedent), children of the putative spouse, stepchildren and parents to claim wrongful death damages, if they can establish that they were dependent on the decedent.
The executor or executrix of the decedent’s estate usually files a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the surviving family members who are entitled to damages.
Liability and Wrongful Death Damages
An individual, company, or government agency that causes a death because of “neglect” (negligence) or a “wrongful act” (intentional harm) is liable under California law for monetary damages. This could be the driver of another motor vehicle who causes a deadly car crash. It could be a company that manufactured a product that kills a loved one. It could be an airline responsible for a plane crash.
Damages in wrongful death / suvivorship case can involve:
- All past medical and hospital charges related to the decedent
- Burial, funeral and related expenses
- All past and projected future loss of earnings and support (food, clothing, shelter, and financial contributions)
- Loss of services (such as household services following the death of a spouse, and loss of parental advice and guidance)
- Loss of care, comfort, companionship and love
- Emotional pain and suffering
It can be complicated and difficult to prove wrongful death damages. Proving projected future loss of earnings and support requires testimony from an economist, for example. Placing a monetary value on intangibles such as loss of care and comfort, and emotional pain and suffering also poses challenges. A skilled, experienced wrongful death attorney knows how to marshal all the relevant facts to build a compelling legal case.
When Does A Wrongful Death Case Have To Be Filed?
In most cases, a California wrongful death case must be filed within two years of an injury or death. If the case involves medical malpractice, the deadline is one year from the date of injury or discovery of malpractice in most situations. If the party being sued is the government (for example, a county or state-run hospital), then the deadline is six months from the date of injury.
These deadlines are in place to preserve evidence in wrongful death cases. Memories of witnesses can fade over time. Important documents might be lost or mislaid. It’s important to act as quickly as possible to build your strongest legal case.