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Understanding California Wrongful Death Law

Wrongful death

The death of any loved one is a tragedy, but there is another level of complication when someone else’s negligence causes this death. California’s wrongful death law allows families to get the justice they need through strong legal action and representation. We will show what specifically constitutes a wrongful death, the potential payout, and the likelihood of success in a wrongful death case.

What is Wrongful Death in California?

Wrongful death is when a person dies due to the legal fault of another person or entity. This may occur in various areas, such as car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace deaths, crime, and defective products. The California wrongful death statute is codified in the California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 377.60

Eligible Claimants: Under California law, specific individuals are entitled to file a wrongful death claim:

  • The deceased person’s spouse or domestic partner
  • The deceased person’s children
  • If there are no direct descendants, then individuals who would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California’s intestate succession laws (e.g., parents or siblings)

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

  1. Consult with a Wrongful Death Attorney: At KAASS Law, our team is well-versed in the legal complexities of wrongful death. We can help you determine if you are eligible for compensation.
  2. Establishing Grounds for the Claim: We will help push your case forward by proving the defendant’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional act caused the death of your loved one. We will collect police reports, medical reports, witness testimony, and other documentation essential to your case.
  3. Filing the Complaint: We will then file a lawsuit in the appropriate jurisdiction where the wrongful death took place. The complaint will outline the facts of the case, the identity of the defendants, and the damages for which you seek compensation.
  4. Discovery Phase:  During this time, there may be depositions, subpoenas, and other forms of general evidence-gathering
  5. Settlement Negotiations: Your wrongful death claim can likely be settled out of court. We will negotiate with either the defendant’s insurance company or their legal team to reach a fair settlement. 
  6. Trial: If both parties do not reach an adequate settlement, the case will go to trial. We will present an argument to give you a winning case, and the judge/jury will decide on the result.

How Long Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take?

The duration of a wrongful death lawsuit in California can vary significantly. It is usually based on several factors, including the case’s complexity, the number of parties involved, and court schedules. These cases can take anywhere from several months to several years to resolve. Here’s a general timeline:

 Wrongful death lawsuits in California vary greatly in how long they take. Some cases are more complex than others; some have more than just two parties, and some are in courts that have a backlog and scheduling issues. The average case can take anywhere from months to years to resolve, below is a rough timeline of wrongful death suits

  • Pre-Litigation: It takes a few months to begin negotiations with insurance companies and gather all needed evidence
  • Filing the Complaint to Discovery: Approximately 6-12 months.
  • Settlement Negotiations: Ongoing, but typically around 6-9 months.
  • Trial Preparation and Trial: Trial can add 6-12 months or more.

Wrongful Death Suit Payouts

When leading your wrongful death lawsuit, we aim to get you adequate compensation for your economic and noneconomic damages. These include:

  • Financial losses: This can include funeral expenses, burial expenses, medical bills, lost income, and the decrease in the value of household services that the deceased would have provided
  • Emotional suffering and loss of companionship, guidance, and affection experienced by the survivors.

In California, wrongful death cases do not have a cap for economic or noneconomic damages. The only exception is for medical malpractice, where noneconomic is capped at $250,000

Chances of Winning a Wrongful Death Suit

The success can vary depending on a mix of factors. This can include the amount and strength of evidence, your legal representation, and other details regarding your case. However, there are certain factors that can increase your chance of success:

  • Clear Evidence of Negligence: There is clear evidence that the defendant directly caused the death of your loved one through their actions
  • Experience Legal Representation: At KAASS Law, we have a proven and successful track record in ensuring our clients get the compensation they deserve. By having an experienced and well-seasoned attorney, you greatly increase your chances of success
  • Credible Witnesses and Expert Testimonies: Witnesses and other proven experts that can support your claim will give strong support to your case.

While there can’t be an exact prediction of chances of success, there are factors and details that typically will give you a favorable outcome. Whether through settlement or a court verdict, we at KAASS Law will work tirelessly to get you the justice you deserve.


Wrongful death lawsuits in California can be complicated and overwhelming. It only makes it worse when, on top of these nuances, you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Understanding the general legal framework will help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. 

If you believe you may have a wrongful death claim, call us at 844.522.7752 to schedule a free consultation and discuss the potential of your case. We will do all we can to help ease your family’s financial burdens and hold the responsible parties accountable. 


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