When something or someone cuts a life short, it can leave surviving family members feeling devastated, confused, and at a loss as to what to do. Legal matters may be difficult to think about after a tragedy, but consider pursuing a wrongful death claim for the good of your family’s future. A claim can bring justice to the responsible party, give you family closure, and provide financial compensation for your losses. California Injury Law Group sympathizes deeply with those who have lost family members or spouses because of negligence. We want to help you get the most out of your wrongful death claim in California.
What Is Wrongful Death?
The first thing you need to know about filing for wrongful death is how the court defines this term. California Law Section 377.60 states that wrongful death is “the death of a person from the wrongful act or neglect of another.” Think about a wrongful death claim like a personal injury claim, except that the negligent act caused the plaintiff’s death. Both types of claims center on the same legal theory of negligence. In a wrongful death claim, one must prove three elements:
- The defendant owed the deceased person a duty of care. The defendant could be a distracted driver, incompetent doctor, negligent caregiver, product manufacturer, property owner, or any other party that contributed to the death. The duty of care will vary based on the defendant’s role in the incident.
- The defendant breached his/her duty of care. A breach is anything that another reasonably prudent party would not have done in the same or similar circumstances. The courts may deem a party “negligent” if it can ascertain that the person or entity should have done something differently to prevent the decedent’s death.
- The breach of duty of care caused the person’s death. Just because a loved one passed away does not make a party automatically responsible. You must prove that the defendant’ breach of care was the proximate cause of your loved one’s death. Proving this element may involve eyewitness statements, expert testimony and a full-scale investigation.
You must also show that you suffered real damages because of the incident. In a wrongful death claim this is typically easy to prove. You may have suffered emotional damages, mental anguish, or loss of consortium. The courts may award compensation for all of these intangible losses, as well as for tangible damages like funeral and burial expenses or the decedent’s accident-related medical care up until the time of death. A wrongful death claim can provide an important source of financial relief for loved ones the decedent left behind.
Wrongful Death Laws in California
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim in California. Only the deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children may file the claim. If these people do not exist, anyone “entitled to the property of the decedent” may file the claim. This could include the person’s parents or siblings. If the decedent’s parents, stepchildren, or putative spouse can prove that they financially depended on the person, the courts may allow these parties to file the claim.
The filing party has two years from the date of the loved one’s death to file a wrongful death claim with the civil courts. The sooner you file, however, the sooner you can recover. Wrongful death can occur in a car accident, slip and fall, workplace incident, accidental drowning, defective product claim, medical malpractice event, and in many other scenarios. If you have a nagging suspicion that someone is to blame for the death of your spouse or family member, contact California Injury Law Group. We have the resources you need to pursue justice and compensation for wrongful death.