How Do You Know Whether You Have a Wrongful Death Claim in CA?

Unfortunately, fatal accidents happen every day. While some incidents are simply unavoidable, others arise from preventable circumstances. If a loved one’s death was caused by another individual’s negligence or intentionally harmful conduct, you might have grounds for a wrongful death claim. To pursue compensation, you must be a personal representative of the decedent or a surviving relative indicated by California’s laws. As part of your case, you must prove that the other person’s act or omission was the cause of your loved one’s death and compensatory damages resulted from the incident. Bringing a wrongful death claim can be difficult, especially during this emotional time. Turn to a personal injury lawyer to help with your case and pursue just compensation on your behalf.

If you need legal assistance in Los Angeles, schedule a consultation with Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP by calling (800) 462-7160 or submitting an online contact form today.

What Incidents Can Lead to a Wrongful Death?

Many wrongful death cases are based on a claim that another person’s negligent act or omission led to the loss of someone else’s life. Other matters are premised on a person’s recklessness or harmful conduct. Therefore, several situations exist in which negligence or intentional behavior can lead to someone’s death.

Examples of such incidents include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Car accidents: An example would be a distracted driver failing to stop at a red light.
  • Defective product: A manufacturer might have produced and distributed a product that was flawed during the design or construction phases, or that did not contain adequate warnings about the risks associated with its use.
  • Medical malpractice: A physician or surgeon might have acted below professional standards when performing treatment.
  • Criminal acts: A person might have intentionally engaged in unlawful behavior and had non-consensual contact with another person that proved fatal.

If your loved one died because of the negligence, recklessness, or wrongful conduct committed by another person, you may have grounds to bring a claim and pursue compensation for damages. Damages include losses and expenses arising from the incident.

Depending on the situation, you can be awarded financial recovery for the following:

  • Medical bills,
  • Burial and funeral expenses,
  • Loss of financial support,
  • Loss of companionship,
  • Pain and suffering sustained by the decedent, and
  • Loss of household services performed by the decedent.

Who Can Recover Compensation in California?

California Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60 provides that a cause of action for wrongful death can be brought against an individual or business that caused another person to die through their negligence or intentional acts. It further identifies those who can bring claims against the responsible party.

Surviving family members eligible to take legal action include the following:

  • Spouses or domestic partners,
  • Children, and
  • Grandchildren.

If the decedent does not have surviving family members as listed above, those who can bring a claim are persons entitled to inherit property from the decedent according to California’s intestate line of succession. These individuals include parents or legal guardians and siblings. Additionally, a minor who lived with the decedent within 180 days of the individual’s death and was dependent on them for more than 50% of support may pursue a case.

A personal representative may also file a claim on the decedent’s behalf.

What Must Be Proven in a Wrongful Death Case?

Wrongful death cases are typically premised on negligence or wrongful conduct. In either instance, the person bringing the claim must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant caused the other person to die. The burden requires that the plaintiff show that it is more likely than not that the defendant’s act or omission was the proximate cause of death.

In a case based on negligence, you would have to prove the following:

  • The defendant owed your loved one a duty of care,
  • They breached that duty,
  • Their breach led to an accident resulting in death, and
  • You and your loved one suffered damages.

With cases based on wrongful conduct, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant intended to engage in the criminal or reckless act. In doing so, they caused fatal harm to someone else.

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death lawsuits are civil claims brought against an individual or entity whose negligent or intentional act caused the death of another. These suits aim to obtain financial compensation for the victim’s family.

The lawsuit must be filed within a specific time after the person’s death. In California, the statute of limitations is 2 years. Attempting to take action beyond that period can result in a case dismissal and the inability to recover compensation.

Seek Legal Assistance with Your Case

A wrongful death case is more than about getting financial recovery for damages. It is also concerned with pursuing justice and holding the responsible party accountable. Preparing a legal strategy that fully explains the incident and supports your claims is critical. An attorney can help through every stage and work toward obtaining a just result on your behalf.

To speak with one of our Los Angeles lawyers at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, please contact us at (800) 462-7160.