In California, a wrongful death claim is one that may be brought when a person dies because of a wrongful act or the negligence of a third party. Like other types of personal injury cases, this is a civil claim brought forth in civil court. While there may also be criminal charges connected to the person’s death when it was caused by someone else, these are dealt with in criminal court and are not a part of the wrongful death civil claim.
Wrongful death cases can be complex for many reasons. Due to the nature of these cases, it is a good idea to hire a wrongful death attorney with experience handling wrongful death claims. Contact attorney Johann Hall today for a free consultation regarding your potential wrongful death case. With years of experience handling cases like yours, he can help you fight for the compensation you and your loved ones deserve.
Who Can Bring a Claim for Wrongful Death?
In wrongful death cases, the person who suffered the injury obviously cannot be the one to file the civil lawsuit since they are deceased. For these cases, California law allows the survivors of the deceased person to file the claim. A special representative of the deceased individual’s estate is also able to file the claim for the wrongful death. At issue in a wrongful death claim is damages in the form of compensation, while any criminal penalties will be given in a criminal case and will move forward completely separate from the civil case. It is possible for a different result to occur in the criminal case than in the civil case.
A wrongful death claim cannot just be filed by any family member. Rather, California law requires that the family member filing the case must have had one of the following familial relationships with the deceased:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving domestic partner
- Surviving children
If the deceased individual does not have a surviving spouse, domestic partner, or any surviving children, then a wrongful death claim may be filed by any individual who would be entitled to the assets or property of the decedent through intestate succession. This can mean that the deceased’s parents or siblings may be able to bring forth a wrongful death claim.
Finally, there is a third category of individuals that may be able to bring a wrongful death claim. This third category includes any person that can establish that they were financially dependent on the decedent at the time of their death. This group includes a putative spouse and that spouse’s putative children, as well as any step-children of the decedent. The decedent’s parents may also bring a wrongful death claim if they were financially dependent on the decedent, even if they were not necessarily the next in line through intestate succession.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Case
There are multiple types of damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death case. What is available in your case is very fact-dependent, and that is why it is a good idea to have an experienced attorney handle your case to make sure you and your loved ones are receiving fair compensation in your case.
There are two main categories of damages that are awarded in a wrongful death case. These include damages that are attributed to the estate of the deceased person to compensate the estate for any losses associated with their death, as well as damages that are for the surviving family members. The damages for the surviving family members are designed to compensate them for the personal losses they suffered due to the decedent’s death.
Damages that may be awarded and attributed to the decedent’s estate include funeral and burial expenses, as well as hospital bills related to the decedent’s illness or injury that resulted in their death. Additionally, lost income may also be awarded to the decedent’s estate. This lost income would include the money that the deceased individual would reasonably have expected to have earned in the future if the individual had lived.
Damages that may be awarded to the surviving family members include loss of affection, love attention, moral support, and community; as well as the value of household services (depending on that family member’s connection to the decedent) and loss of anticipated financial support for those family members that were financially dependent on the decedent.
Wrongful death cases must be filed within two years of the decedent’s date of death. Other deadlines may apply, so it is vital to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney such as Johann Hall right away to make sure that your claim is properly filed and handled. Reach out to us at (707) 360-8717 or fill out our online contact form to see how we can help you.