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California Wrongful Death Lawyer

What is “wrongful death?”

A wrongful death occurs when the negligent, intentional, or reckless conduct of a person causes the death of another. The decedent's surviving family members may sue to recover compensation for the decedent's death.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim in California?

In California, a decedent's personal representative may bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the following family members that survive the decedent:

  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Children or issue of deceased children

If the aforementioned parties are deceased, those next in line to inherit the decedent's property by intestate succession may bring a wrongful death claim. Potential claimants include parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents.

The following claimants may bring a claim if they were dependent on the decedent at the time of death:

  • Putative spouse (a person that had a good faith belief that they were legally married to the decedent even though the marriage was unrecognized by law)
  • Children of the putative spouse
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents
  • A minor that was living in decedent's house for 180 days before the decedent's death and was dependent on the decedent for at least one-half of their support

What elements does a claimant have to show to establish a wrongful death?

The plaintiff must establish the following elements:

  1. The decedent's death was caused by the defendant's conduct;
  2. The defendant was negligent, reckless, or engaged in intentional conduct;
  3. The decedent's family members are alive; and
  4. The decedent's family has suffered monetary damages because of the decedent's death.

What is the time limit for filing a wrongful death claim?

It is best to consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. This will help to ensure that the claim is filed before it is prohibited by California's wrongful death statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is a law that governs the time that a claimant has to file a lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the accident that caused the decedent's death.

What types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawyer can help a claimant recover economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include recovery for funeral and burial costs, medical costs, loss of the decedent's expected income, loss of medical benefits, loss of pension, and a damage award for the value of the goods and services the decedent would have provided. Noneconomic damages include an award for the pain and suffering of the survivors, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, and loss of care, guidance, and advice.

If you would like to learn about whether you have a wrongful death case or if you have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact us.

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