Murrieta Family Law Firm Temecula Divorce Attorney
Experience, Expertise, Excellence

Wrongful Death Claims in California

Losing a loved one is crushing, even more so if the loss was unexpected. This unexpected loss can not only leave you feeling emotionally distraught but also financially vulnerable.

While no compensation will ever atone for the loss of your loved one, it can help with the financial strain of affording funeral costs, burial expenses, and the like. Below, we discuss how to file and what damages you might be compensated for.

How to File a Wrongful Death Suit

Wrongful death claims are born out of instances where another person’s reckless actions lead to the death of someone else. These claims are often made in relation to car accidents, medical malpractice, and criminal acts.

Wrongful death lawsuits are predicated on the following facts:

  • Had a duty of care to the deceased
  • Breached their duty of care
  • Caused your loved one’s death (because of their actions/the breach of care)

Each of the previous elements must be proven in court to substantiate a wrongful death claim. To file a wrongful death claim, you (and/or your attorney) will need to file a personal injury complaint. You will need the following information:

  • The name of the decedent
  • The name(s) of those filing
  • The damages you have suffered
  • The reckless actions taken by the defendant

It is also important to note that wrongful death suits are civil, not criminal cases. As such, the results of the civil case will not equate to criminal conviction for those responsible.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

You must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the deceased’s passing. According to California Civil Code of Procedures § 377.60, you can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent, if you are:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse or partner
  • The child of the decedent
  • A grandchild of any deceased children of the decedent

If there are no surviving family members who can file, you can also file if you are someone "who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession,” which can include parents or siblings.

Receiving Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) outline the damages (losses) you can be compensated for after a lawsuit. Generally, damages fall into two categories—economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include clear financial losses families have experienced, such as funeral expenses and lost wages/financial support from the deceased. Non-economic damages encompass losses that don’t have a clear monetary value, like the loss of love or companionship

(see CACI No. 3921).

At Singleton Smith Law Offices, we are devoted to helping people, especially those who are hurting. We are so sorry for your loss, and we would be honored to help you and your family. While you focus on healing, we will focus on fighting for you and your loved ones.

If you need help pursuing a wrongful death claim, you can trust our firm with the legalities. Contact us today online or at (951) 779-1610.