If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence, either wrongfully or willfully, spending your time in court is the last thing you want to do. While no amount of compensation can bring your loved one back to life, California law allows surviving family members to receive financial losses due to wrongful death.
However, not just anyone can bring a claim following the wrongful death of a person. Who files for this lawsuit will highly depend on their relationship with the person who died wrongfully. Although you want to pursue monetary compensation with the help of a wrongful death lawyer, you probably know that no amount of money can ease the emotional distress caused by the sudden death.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death may be defined as the death of one party due to the intentional or negligent actions of another party. Therefore, a person could be sued for causing a traffic fatality because they were texting while driving. Similarly, a person could be sued for willfully running over a person on the road.
All states allow recovery of compensation following a wrongful death incident. However, the difference in U.S. states is who can bring the lawsuit.
Situations That Can Lead to a Wrongful Death
The people entitled to file for a wrongful death claim in California may do so in several situations. Sometimes, the lawsuit may succeed without necessarily showing a defendant’s wrongdoing if there is a strict liability statute in action.
A few examples that could give rise to a wrongful death claim include:
- Car crashes, including pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Assault, battery, and violent acts including manslaughter or murder
- Toxic tort
- Dog bites and animal attacks
- Medical malpractice
- Construction site accidents
- Sports accidents
- Drowning accidents
- Boating accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Defective product accidents
Any type of accident that results in the wrongful death of another person is a potential wrongful death lawsuit. If you believe your loved one died as a result of someone else’s fault, talk to a Santa Ana wrongful death lawyer for legal advice.
What People Can File for a Wrongful Death Suit in California?
California wrongful death law (California Code of Civ. Proc. §§ 377.10-377.60) lists who can file for a wrongful death claim. The following parties are eligible:
- A surviving spouse who was legally married to the deceased
- Surviving domestic partner
- Children of the deceased
- Any person who was a dependent of the deceased
- Any family member, if the deceased had no surviving children or will in place
- The deceased person’s representative
- A minor who lived with the deceased and depended on him or her for at least half of the minor’s support
Sometimes the description of this list can be a bit difficult to understand, and that’s why you should seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer in Orange County, CA, to find out who is entitled to file for such a suit.
What if There Are Several Eligible Persons?
It is not unusual to have multiple people bringing a wrongful death claim at the same time and be entitled to benefits. For instance, the deceased’s spouse and children can all file for the claim, or, spouse and parents of the deceased in case the deceased had no surviving children.
In the end, the California law requires that everyone who has a valid claim must be named while filing. Due to the intricacies involved while filing for a wrongful death lawsuit, it is imperative to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney in Orange County, CA.
Is It True That There Are Two Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
In California, there are two slightly different types of lawsuits one can bring against a negligent party. The conventional wrongful death suit may be filed under the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60. The second type is called “survival action,” usually pursued under the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.30.
Conventional Wrongful Death Suit
Under the conventional wrongful death suit, family members can pursue loss of services, loss of companionship, loss of support, funeral and burial expenses, and consortium loss. You, however, won’t receive California punitive damages in a conventional lawsuit.
A survival action may be filed by the deceased person’s personal representative, or a “successor in interest” if there is no named representative. A successor in interest can be a beneficiary of the deceased person’s estate or part of the property.
A survival action can only be pursued if the deceased person did not die immediately following the accident. Through a survival action, families can recover what the deceased person would have received through a personal injury claim had they survived – damages like medical expenses, punitive damages, and lost wages.
What Must Be Proven for a Successful Wrongful Death Claim?
One must have enough facts that point to wrongful death. In California, you must:
- Have sufficient proof of negligence or intentional harm
- Prove damages as a result of your loss, i.e., prove loss of financial support, loss of companionship, etc.
Are There Deadlines for Filing for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The Statute of Limitations dictates the deadlines for filing a lawsuit. For a wrongful death claim in California, you have a maximum of 2 years to file, unless otherwise. Don’t allow this period to expire before seeking justice.
A Compassionate Lawyer on Your Side
Knowing whether you qualify to file a wrongful death claim or not can save you a lot of time and effort. And once you’ve confirmed that you are eligible to file, don’t delay to file because evidence can be lost, witnesses may vanish, or the deadline missed.
You may not be prepared to deal with the emotional and legal issues in the claim. But an experienced wrongful death attorney who is sensitive to your feelings can walk with you through the journey. Talk to a Gibson & Hughes attorney today at (714) 547-8377.