When someone dies as the result of negligence, medical malpractice, or intentional actions on the part of another party who is legally liable for the death, a wrongful death claim can be initiated by specific family members of the deceased including:
- A surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The surviving children
- Surviving grandchildren of a deceased person who was a child of the decedent
There may be recoverable damages for those who qualify under the California Code of Civil Procedure. Economic and non-economic damages are based on the average expected life span of the deceased and their occupation, health, activities, and lifestyle.
What Is Wrongful Death Under California State Law?
Wrongful death is the legal cause of action against someone for bringing about the death of a person through a wrongful act or negligence. The decedents of the person (any living relatives, their surviving children, spouse, or parents) can assert a wrongful death claim.
What Damages Are Survivors Entitled to in a Wrongful Death Case?
Survivors can receive special damages to cover medical bills. Let’s say the person was hit and brought to the hospital before they passed away; their ambulance and hospital bills would be covered. Survivors can also receive general damages, and a spouse could receive loss of consortium, which means the loss of the love and comfort provided by your husband or wife.
If the person was severely injured and subsequently passed away due to their injuries, their family members would be entitled to their pain and suffering, loss of earnings (present and future earnings capacity) and all medical expenses. Every death claim is different. We’ve handled many such cases, so we’re able to better determine the different compensations that might be available if you’ve lost a loved one.
How Are Damages/Settlement Amounts Divided Amongst the Heirs in a Wrongful Death Case?
In California, the compensation would go to the surviving spouse or domestic partner. If there’s no spouse or partner, the money would be divided evenly between the decedent’s children. It’s similar to how an estate would be divided in the absence of a will in that it’s split evenly by the order of inheritance.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years, unless it was caused by a governmental entity. In that case, the statute would be six months from denial of the claim or acceptance of the claim.
If My Loved One Hired a Law Firm to Handle Their Personal Injury Case and Then Passed Away from Their Injuries, Does Their Case Automatically Become a Wrongful Death Case?
You would need to sign a new retainer agreement with the law firm. Once a person passes away, their claim dies with them in California. It would become your claim, so you would need to sign a new retainer and hire the same or a different attorney, depending on the direction you want to go.
Should You Hire an Attorney Even If the Liability in the Accident That Killed Your Loved One Is Clear? Can Someone Handle a Wrongful Death Claim on Their Own?
Even if liability is clear, wrongful death claims tend to be very complicated. The investigation is significant, often taking three, four, and even five months. We just handled a case that was crystal-clear on liability, and even it took nine months and quite a bit of work to get through everything. For something this complicated, I would definitely consult with an attorney.
For more information on Wrongful Death Cases in California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (562) 600-0807 today.
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