It’s never easy to lose a loved one. However, when a loved one dies due to the negligent or wrongful actions of another, the suffering of a victim’s family is significantly compounded.
While nothing is adequate to atone for a loved one’s death, most states provide an opportunity for recourse and compensation through wrongful death lawsuits.
If you’ve lost someone under questionable circumstances, a California wrongful death attorney can advise you about what happens if a loved one passes away or is killed by the wrongful act of another.
What Is a Wrongful Death Action?
A wrongful death action is a legal claim designed to compensate a decedent’s family for their loss. In a wrongful death claim, the person who suffered direct harm and fatal injury can no longer file a lawsuit against an at-fault party. Instead, family members directly impacted by their loved one’s passing may file a wrongful death against the at-fault party.
Two Key Components Regarding Wrongful Death Claims in California
Wrongful death claims in California must be filed within the statute of limitations and by family members or representatives of the decedent as permitted under the California Code of Civil Procedure.
California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
The period for filing a wrongful death claim in California is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. If the action is not filed within the two years, it will be generally barred from the court.
Exceptions to the statute of limitations do exist under the discovery rule. Where the discovery rule applies, a claim may be filed two years from the date on which the cause of death is discovered when not immediately apparent upon the decedent’s passing.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Only select family members and personal representatives of the decedent may file a wrongful death cause of action. Those eligible to bring a wrongful death claim in California include:
- A decedent’s spouse, domestic partner, or putative spouse
- Children of the decedent
- Minor children residing with the decedent for at least 180 days before the date of death, and who were dependent for at least 50% of their financial support from the decedent
- Parents of the decedent
- Heirs legally entitled to inherit from the decedent’s estate
In cases where more than one person intends to file a cause of action, it may be helpful to have a sole designee represent the decedent’s estate on behalf of all eligible claimants.
How is Compensation Won in a Wrongful Death Case?
For wrongful death claims to be successful and compensation to be awarded, a decedent’s death must be directly attributed to an at-fault party’s wrongful or negligent actions.
A California wrongful death lawyer must prove 4 essential elements in a wrongful death case:
- There existed a duty of care between the parties
- The duty of care to the decedent was breached
- The breach of duty directly caused the decedent’s death
- Damage resulted from the at-fault party’s wrongful or negligent actions
If all four criteria are proven, the at-fault party will likely be determined responsible for your loved one’s death. In that event, financial compensation may be awarded for economic and non-economic losses such as future lost earnings and loss of companionship.
Contact a California Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you believe your loved one’s death was the result of another’s negligent or willful misconduct in California, you may have a wrongful death claim. It’s essential you consult a skilled and knowledgeable California wrongful death attorney about your situation and the merits of your case.
Contact our office today to speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. We will discuss your options regarding wrongful death claims and, together, we will seek to hold the at-fault party responsible for their actions.