The sudden and preventable death of a family member will devastate a family both emotionally and financially. It’s difficult for family members to meet with an attorney shortly after losing a family member, but evidence can get lost or destroyed, and witnesses can vanish into thin air. A grieving family needs an experienced, effective and compassionate attorney to guide them through the complicated and seemingly cold and indifferent legal system.
Proving a wrongful death
Negligence involves the failure of a person to act as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would act under the same or similar circumstances. Most wrongful death cases are filed pursuant to section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. In order to prove negligence in a wrongful death case, a person must prove that:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the decedent
- The defendant breached that duty
- The breach of the duty was the cause of an accident
- The accident was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death
- That death caused the decedent’s family to be damaged
Common wrongful death fact scenarios
Aside from negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit might be founded on other conduct like intentional acts, recklessness, or even a product liability theory. Most cases involve everyday careless acts or failures to act though like:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Premises liability
- Construction accidents
- Inadequate security
- Medical malpractice
Who can file a wrongful death action?
The same statute that allows people to sue for the wrongful death of another person designates who can bring such a lawsuit. Typically, you’ll want a personal injury lawyer on your team to help you. Those who are permitted to bring such an action include but aren’t limited to:
- The surviving spouse and children of the decedent
- The registered domestic partner of the decedent
- The decedent’s personal representative
Other individuals might be able to participate in or even bring a wrongful death action. Our team of wrongful death attorneys can advise you on any possible issues involving these people.
Damages that are available
A wide range of damages are available in California wrongful death actions. When it’s determined that somebody wrongfully caused the death of another person, the issue of damages arises. Various California appellate courts have held that damages in a California wrongful death case may be awarded for:
- Funeral and burial expenses of the deceased
- Loss of support
- Loss of services
- Loss of companionship
Punitive damages are not available under the California Wrongful Death Act.
Pursuant to section 377.30 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, a second count can be added to a wrongful death action if the decedent didn’t immediately die from his or her injuries. That’s known as a survival action, and it can be brought by the decedent’s personal representative. If there is no personal representative, it can be brought by his or her successor in interest. Damages in the survival action are limited. They might include medical bills before death, lost earnings before death and any punitive damages. The don’t include pain and suffering, disfigurement.
When must a wrongful death action be filed?
The general rule is that a wrongful death action must be filed within two years of the decedent’s date of death. There are exceptions to this rule, and a limitations period could be as short a six months. That’s another reason why you want to see us as soon as possible after an accident that took the life of your family member.
Contact us as soon as possible if you suspect negligence in the death of any family member anywhere in California. You don’t need any money to speak with us or retain us. We don’t even get paid unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you. Our goal is to maximize any proceeds that you recover.