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Wrongful Death

What Is Considered a “Wrongful Death”?

In California, a “wrongful death claim” occurs when one person dies as a result of another person or entity’s wrongful act or negligence.

A wrongful death statement is a civil lawsuit. It is brought directly to court by the survivors of the deceased, or by the personal representative of the estate of the deceased, and fault is expressed solely in terms of money damages that the court orders the defendant to pay to the survivors of the deceased (if the lawsuit is successful).

A “wrongful death” Law in California allows families to claim damage when a loved one died as a result of the negligence of someone.

The rule was set out in Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60 of California.

A wrongful death is equivalent to a cause of action under California law for “consortium loss”. Consortium loss occurs to cases where a spouse or licensed domestic partner is robbed of a living partner’s companionship and confidentiality due to the misconduct of someone.

Under Section 377.30 of Code of Civil Procedure of California, a wrongful death lawsuit is often paired with a California “survival” cause of action.

In behalf of the victim’s property, preservation grounds of conduct are brought to compensate for the losses suffered by the victim (as opposed to the family) from the wrongdoing.

Who in California Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

Section 377.60 of Code of Civil Procedure of California requires the following family members (or their representatives) to bring a case against the deceased:

  • Spouses or parents,
  • marital partners,
  • children,
  • grandchildren (if the deceased’s children are also deceased),
  • other minor children (such as stepchildren) dependent on the deceased for at least 50 percent of their financial support, and/ or
  • Anyone else who would have the right to the property of the deceased under the intestate succession laws of California.

What Kind of Damages Are Available in Case of Wrongful Death?

In a wrongful death claim in California, a number of different varieties of personal injury damages are available. The particular amounts involved will depend on an individual case’s facts.

Compensation is usually split according to whether it compensates the property for death-related losses or the surviving family members for the death-related personal losses they have incurred.

Losses Typically Attributed to the Property Include:

  • health and medical expenses for the last illness or injury of the deceased,
  • loss of income, including potential income, would have been reasonably expected for the deceased to gain in the future if he or she lived,
  • burial and funeral expenses.

Losses Usually Attributed to Surviving Family Members Include:

  • the cost of household services loss from expected financial support, and/ or
  • loss of love, culture, care, affection, moral support, and guidance.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California

The limits statute for both wrongful death and recovery proceedings in California is two years.

In an unjust death case, on the date of death, the two years “accrues” (starts running).

The family has two years to sue for recovery acts from the later: the date of an accident, or six months after death.

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