Wrongful death is when someone dies due to the negligence or malpractice of someone else. Someone guilty of wrongful death might be a careless nurse, doctor, or drunk driver. According to California’s Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60, the spouse, children, or domestic partner of the person who was wrongfully killed is entitled to take action against the person who caused the death. It is important to know that wrongful death cases are different than homicide or murder cases. Homicide and murder cases are punished with time in jail, probation, and fines, and take place in a criminal court. Wrongful death cases take place in civil court and usually end in the defendant paying the party of the deceased person in damages.

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

In California, you must meet certain qualifications in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit. People who can be included:

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse
  • The deceased’s domestic partner
  • The deceased’s living children
  • The children of the deceased’s children if they are no longer alive

Other people who might be eligible include:

  • The deceased’s stepchildren
  • The deceased’s parents

Available Damages

The amount of personal injury damages available to the party of the deceased person depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. Common losses compensated for by the defendant include:

  • Funeral/burial expenses
  • Medical and hospital bills
  • Income losses, or income that the deceased person would have been expected to make had they not been killed
    • Usually, the surviving spouse of the deceased person is entitled to the income that the deceased would have earned until the end of their life expectancy

Many wrongful death lawsuits seek to compensate the losses suffered by surviving family members due to the death. These losses include:

  • Financial support
  • Value of household services

These also sometimes include what are considered “noneconomic losses,” such as:

  • Love, moral support, guidance, and affection

It is important to remember that wrongful death claims must be filed within a certain time frame. If it is a wrongful death resulting from medical malpractice, a claim must be filed within one year.  If it is a wrongful death resulting from negligence of any other type of entity, including individuals, you have 2 years to file a claim.  If the claim is not filed within the specific time frame, the surviving spouse/family members will lose their chance at achieving any sort of compensation. If you believe that someone you know or were related to was wrongfully killed, the chances of receiving fair compensation depend on the skill and experience of your legal representation. Call right away for a free consultation at (714) 705-6390.