Wrongful Death Damages in California Explained
Unexpectedly losing a loved one in any type of situation can leave a family heartbroken and without their love and financial support. It is especially difficult when a loved one was killed as a result of the negligent, willful, or wrongful act of a third party. This sort of loss, known as a wrongful death, is handled differently in each state. State law provides guidelines for how to file a wrongful death claim, how that claim is handled and processed by all parties involved, and what damages are available to be awarded. In California, when a loved one dies and their death is considered a wrongful death, their close relatives may be entitled to recover financial damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.
California wrongful death law allows designated surviving family members to file a wrongful death claim in order to receive financial compensation when a third party’s actions caused or contributed to the death of their loved one. There are strict criteria for a death to be considered wrongful, including:
- A human being passed away.
- Negligence or intent to harm caused that person’s death.
- The surviving family members are suffering financially as a result of losing their loved one.
- The surviving family members have lost the love, care, comfort, and society of their loved one.
Who Can File for Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Not every friend or relative of someone who passes away is legally entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit in court. The victim’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and/or sometimes those who would be entitled to the deceased’s property by intestate succession may file a wrongful death claim in California. If someone does not fall within those guidelines but they were dependent on the deceased – including a putative spouse, children of a putative spouse, stepchildren, or parents among others – they may file a wrongful death claim. The last situation in which a person can file a wrongful death claim is when a minor lived with the deceased in their household for 180 days prior to death and was dependent upon them for one-half or more of their financial support.
The statute of limitations within which a wrongful death claim in California must be filed is two years from the day the victim passed away. Please note that if the claim involves a public entity or medical malpractice action, then a claim will then need to be filed with the public entity or medical provider before suit is filed. Also, the wrongful act may involve another cause of action triggering an earlier date in which a suit must be filed to protect your rights. If a case is not filed within that time period, the family can lose the legal right to recover damages.
What Damages Are Recoverable?
Damages are intended to make up for the support, both economic and non-economic, that the surviving loved ones of the deceased could have expected to receive if that person was still living. While no amount of financial compensation can bring a loved one back, holding the responsible parties accountable for their death and ensuring the victim’s family is taken care of can provide some comfort. In addition, seeking justice by way of financial damages can discourage companies and individuals from engaging in the same or similar negligent or reckless behavior in the future, potentially saving lives.
When a loved one passes, medical bills, funeral costs, and other bills can pile up quickly, leaving the family with the burden of paying a lot of money they may not be able to afford. This is where economic damages can help. Economic damages in California may include, but are not limited to, medical and hospital bills for the deceased’s final illness or injury, funeral and burial expenses for the deceased, financial support of the family, value of the household services the deceased would have provided during their lifetime, the loss of any benefits and income the deceased provided, and gifts the relatives would have been expected to receive throughout their loved one’s lifetime.
Non-economic damages are much more difficult to quantify, and can include the loss of the deceased’s protection, love, societal status, community, companionship, affection, moral support, and guidance. California law recognizes that many non-economic damages exist and each wrongful death case will have different facts, which will lead to different damages being awarded. A judge or jury will determine a reasonable amount to award based on the evidence presented.
Having a knowledgeable and empathetic attorney by your family’s side to guide you through this process will be critical to holding the negligent or malicious party or parties accountable financially for your loss.
Our caring and experienced wrongful death attorneys understand that our work cannot heal the wounds caused by the unexpected death of your loved one, but we can help bring you closure by holding the responsible party or parties accountable. Our team will seek out and obtain the compensation your family needs to create a stronger financial foundation with which to move forward. If you believe someone else’s actions were the cause of your loved one’s death, contact the wrongful death lawyers at Curtis Legal Group at 1-800-LAW-3080, or send us a message below.