What are California’s wrongful death laws?

California residents never expect to lose a loved one at the hands of another party. This is one of the most devastating situations for anyone. While nothing can bring the decedent back, filing a lawsuit allows you to recover damages under the applicable state laws.

Understanding wrongful death situations

wrongful death occurs when a person is killed due to someone else’s negligence, reckless actions or deliberate violence. This can include situations such as car accidents, medical malpractice or criminal actions.

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit

California law allows certain people to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The victim’s spouse or domestic partner is the first in line to do so. If there is no such person, the person’s children are allowed to file. However, if the victim’s children are deceased, their grandchildren can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If the deceased does not have a surviving family member, then anyone who is entitled to their estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. This includes their parents, siblings or whoever else is alive during the time of the death.

In California, a surviving family member has up to two years from the date of the person’s death to file a lawsuit. If the claim is not filed within that statute of limitations, it will not be heard by the court and the victim’s family will not be able to recover damages.

Damages available in a successful wrongful death claim include economic, noneconomic and sometimes, punitive damages. Economic damages include anything with an actual cost such as medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses and lost wages. Noneconomic includes the victim’s pain and suffering before their death and the family’s mental anguish. Punitive damages may be ordered if the defendant’s actions were heinous.

A wrongful death is devastating, but the victim’s survivors can have some relief in holding the liable party responsible for their financial losses.

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