Everything You Need to Know about Wrongful Death
After the accidental death of a loved one, you want justice and compensation for the damages you have suffered. However, bringing a wrongful death action is a complex legal matter that takes expertise and experience to handle properly. It is crucial that you seek assistance from qualified California wrongful death attorneys as soon as possible. Read the guide below to get a fundamental understanding of your situation, your rights, and your legal options.
CAN I SUE FOR WRONGFUL DEATH IN CALIFORNIA?
In California, the people entitled to bring a wrongful death action are generally family members and dependents who would be entitled to an inheritance in the absence of a will. More specifically, the following individuals may pursue wrongful death damages:
- Spouse or registered domestic partner;
- Living children;
- Siblings and other relatives who would be entitled to an inheritance in the absence of a will, but only if there are no surviving children;
- Dependent stepchildren;
- Dependent grandchildren;
- Dependent parents; and/or
- Any dependent minor who was in the care of the deceased for more than 180 days prior to his or her death.
If there are multiple claimants, they must all join together in a single suit. Those who aren’t a part of the lawsuit when judgment is entered will usually be barred from seeking compensation. Also, all of the recipients must agree upon how the award should be divided; otherwise, the court will distribute the award in whatever manner it deems most just.
WHAT IS THE WRONGFUL DEATH STATUTE IN CALIFORNIA?
In California, the statute of limitations, or deadline, for filing a wrongful death action is two years after the date of death. If you fail to file before this window closes, you will be barred from seeking compensation.
However, different limitation periods and procedural requirements apply under certain circumstances, such as the involvement of medical malpractice or a government employee. It is highly advised that you seek legal guidance immediately to ensure that you file your wrongful death suit in time.
CAN I FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT BASED ON THE DEATH OF A CHILD OR AN ELDERLY PERSON?
Yes, you can. However, the calculation of damages may be different than if a financial supporter of the family had passed away. Your recovery will mostly be comprised of non-economic damages.
WHAT ABOUT AN UNBORN CHILD?
Unfortunately, the state of California does not grant an embryo or fetus the rights of personhood, therefore parents cannot pursue wrongful death damages if their unborn child is killed.
HOW LONG DO WRONGFUL DEATH CASES TAKE?
There is no simple answer to this question. While some wrongful death cases are settled prior to litigation, others are taken all the way to court. There really is no telling how long your case will take. It may be weeks, months, even years. You should understand from the outset that a quick resolution is not guaranteed.
HOW MUCH IS A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT WORTH?
Determining how much a wrongful death case is worth is very difficult since there are no definite statutes or even rough guidelines saying what amount any case should be worth. An attorney can provide an estimate by consulting verdict reports from similar cases or discussing with colleagues about possible settlement values, but a mathematically certain number is nearly impossible to reach due to all of the factors that are involved.
HOW ARE WRONGFUL DEATH DAMAGES CALCULATED?
Depending on your relation to the deceased and the extent of financial, emotional, and mental support he or she provided you, you may be entitled to recover the following damages:
- Lost financial support;
- Value of gifts or benefits;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Value of household services;
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support; and/or
- Loss of training and guidance the deceased would have given children.
While some states advise juries to permit the recovery of damages for grief, sorrow, and mental anguish, California is not one of them.
CAN PUNITIVE DAMAGES BE RECOVERED IN A WRONGFUL DEATH ACTION?
The state of California prohibits an award of punitive damages for most wrongful death cases. It does make an exception for wrongful death cases involving defendants who were convicted of felony murder, though the gesture is mostly symbolic since most individuals convicted of felony murder do not have the resources to pay large judgments.
There are other particular circumstances which allow the recovery of punitive damages in wrongful death cases. Speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney for more information.
Call Wilshire Law Firm today at (800) 522-7274 to speak with a legal professional about your wrongful death claim or suit. We offer free, comprehensive consultations. With our help, you can get the compensation that’ll alleviate your financial struggles, allowing you and your family to focus on mourning and finding peace.