Wrongful death lawsuits in California: What you should know

Everything you need to know about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California.

It is an unfortunate fact that making a mistake or having a lapse in judgment could have serious and even fatal consequences on someone else. Checking a text message on a California highway could quickly result in multiple fatalities. A physician who fails to review a patient's medical records could initiate a chain of events that ends in the patient's death.

When negligence causes a fatality, there is legal recourse the survivors may take. Here, we take a look at these claims and what makes for successful lawsuits:

Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?

According to California law, the following may file a claim citing wrongful death:

  • The deceased's spouse or domestic partner
  • The children of the deceased
  • Someone who is entitled to the property through intestate succession, so long as there are no survivors in the decedent's line of descent

Furthermore, if there are other parties who were financially dependent on the deceased, they may be able to lay claim. This could include stepchildren or the decedent's parents.

Is there a deadline for bringing such a claim?

Yes. Similar to other personal injury lawsuits, a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the death. Failing to initiate the claim in that timeframe may result in the plaintiff's ability to bring a suit at all.

What damages are available?

This is where wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury claims differ slightly. In both matters, damages could include medical bills and lost income or wages. However, plaintiffs in a wrongful death suit may also recover funeral and burial expenses. Survivors may also cite a loss of love or guidance among damages as well as the loss of anticipated financial support they may have received.

How are wrongful death claims resolved?

There are two main ways to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to a close: negotiation and litigation. In most cases, the parties may try to reach a fair settlement outside the courtroom. However, when this fails to produce an agreement, the parties may move to trial. During trial, the plaintiff has the opportunity to present evidence supporting his or her claim. This could include testimony from medical professionals, witnesses and law enforcement. Having a solid timeline of events and a paper trail of interactions, reports or other documentation is essential.

No amount of money could ever replace the loss that families endure after a death. However, it may help people get back on their feet. Anyone who would like to know more about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in California.