California Wrongful Death Statute
Losing a loved one is a traumatic event for anyone. And it somehow brings insult to the injury knowing that someone else’s negligence caused the death of your nearest and dearest. You want justice for this wanton act of carelessness – and, under personal injury California law – you have the right to seek it.
According to the Code of Civil Procedure of California, the following persons have the right to bring a legal action for the death of a person caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongful act:
- Surviving spouse
- Domestic partner
- Issue of deceased children
- Parents, stepchildren, putative spouse, legal guardians (if the parents are deceased) if they were dependent on the deceased person.
What Are Causes of Wrongful Deaths?
First of all, it is important to remember that personal injury California law covers civil cases. It does not matter whether the person who caused your loved one’s death is found guilty of manslaughter or murder in a criminal case. This is a completely separate matter from the legal point of view. However, the eligible family members retain the right to file a civil lawsuit in parallel with the criminal case in the situation of intentional acts (including crimes).
Thus, a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought successfully in various cases, such as:
- Car accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Premises liability
- Product defects
- Nursing home negligence.
Proving a Wrongful Death Case
The concept of personal injury in California law is based on four basic elements:
- The existence of a duty of care
- The breach of the duty of care, causing a personal injury accident
- The accident was the direct cause of injuries or death
- The plaintiff suffered financial loss as a result of the accident.
In a wrongful death case, the most sensitive part is demonstrating that you suffered a financial loss as a result of your loved one’s death. How do you put a monetary value on someone’s life, emotional support and love? Unfortunately, the law requires these elements, and an experienced personal injury attorney can and will prove them.
What Kind of Damages Can You Recover?
The Judicial Council of California allows the following types of damages to be awarded by a jury in a wrongful death lawsuit: economic damages, future economic losses and non-economic damages.
Current and future economic damages cover:
- Medical expenses prior to death
- Loss of financial support
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of household services.
Non-economic damages refer to:
- Loss of love, companionship and support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of guidance and training.
In the process of determining the value of these damages, the jury will have to take into consideration the deceased’s life expectancy, determined by their state of health prior to death, habits, lifestyle and occupation. This can be a grueling experience for a grieving relative, but an experienced personal injury attorney will offer you not only legal support, but also compassion during this trying time.
Talk to an Experienced Lawyer Well Versed in Personal Injury California Law
The last thing on your mind after you lost a loved one is getting ready for a lawsuit. However, you owe it to yourself and to the deceased to pursue justice on their behalf. And you do not have all the time in the world to do so. Each state defines a statute of limitations for personal injury cases – the period of time you have available to take legal action. In California, the statute of limitations is 2 years after the date of your loved one’s death.
Thus, you need to present your case to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible, and rely on their advice in order to obtain all the damages you are entitled to by law.