Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Posted on behalf of Arnold Law Firm on May 10, 2017 in Wrongful Death
Dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one is a painful tragedy, especially if his or her death was completely preventable and caused by another’s negligence.
Although no amount of money can fulfill the loss you experience after the death of a loved one, a wrongful death claim may provide compensation to relieve the financial burdens you may be facing.
However, California only allows select individuals to file a wrongful death claim. If you meet these qualifications, you may want to contact our experienced wrongful death lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death occurs when a person is needlessly killed because of another’s negligent or reckless actions. The deceased’s surviving loved ones may be able to file a claim against the at-fault party to seek restitution if the following conditions are met:
- A human being died.
- The death was caused either by another’s negligence or another’s intent to cause harm.
- The deceased’s surviving family members are left suffering financially as a result of the death.
- A personal representative from the descendant’s estate has been appointed to represent the deceased.
A wrongful death claim will require you to have a preponderance of evidence to determine liability. This means that you must be able to prove there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the defendant’s negligence caused your loved one’s death.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are few people who are legally able to file a wrongful death claim in California. Although wrongful death claims are usually reserved for immediate family members, some individuals who were dependent on the victim for an extended period of time may also be able to file a claim if there are no surviving children or spouse.
Those who can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the decedent include:
- The decedent’s children.
- The decedent’s spouse or domestic partner.
- The decedent’s parents if he or she was a minor.
- A minor who resided in the decedent’s household for a minimum of 180 days before his or her death and was financially dependent on the descendant for at least one-half of the minor’s support.
- Those who would be considered an heir to the decedent and would be entitled to his or her property if the decedent did not have a surviving spouse, domestic partner or children.
- A putative spouse, which is a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found to have believed in good faith that his or her marriage to the decedent was still valid.
- The putative spouse’s children, stepchildren or parents.
If you meet any of these qualifications, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party.
As experienced wrongful death lawyers, we can determine who should act as the representative of the deceased’s estate and file a claim on his or her behalf.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
Negligence or recklessness that occurs in a range of situations can result in a person's premature death, including:
- Defective or dangerous drugs
- Criminal behavior
Our wrongful death attorneys can help you determine if your loved one’s death could have been avoided had the at-fault party acted in a more competent and reasonable manner.
What Damages Can I Seek in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate the deceased’s dependents to alleviate the financial loss felt by his or her unexpected departure. With the help of a skilled wrongful death attorney, you may be able to recover compensation for:
- Funeral and burial costs
- The deceased’s medical expenses
- The loss of the deceased’s expected income
- The loss of inheritance as a result of the death
- The value of services the deceased would have provided
- The pain and suffering the deceased experienced before his or her death
- The loss of guidance, nurturing and care the deceased would have provided
- The loss of love, companionship and consortium the deceased would have offered to a surviving spouse
In some instances, you may be awarded punitive damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, punitive damages are rare and only offered in California if the deceased experienced extreme pain and suffering, as well as significant financial loss, just before his or her death.
Cases involving the deceased’s pain and suffering are known as “survivor actions.” These cases are different from wrongful death claims in that they attempt to compensate the victim through his or her estate, rather than compensating the surviving family members like a wrongful death claim. They often include only the deceased’s lost wages and medical expenses.
Be sure to consult with an attorney who has experience handling wrongful death claims. A qualified attorney will ensure relevant damages are included in your claim.
Qualified Legal Help for Wrongful Death Claims
If your loved one has recently died because of another’s negligence or recklessness, you may be entitled to damages and justice through legal action.
The Arnold Law Firm has represented victims of negligence and their families in the Sacramento area for more than 30 years. We have seen numerous instances of avoidable deaths caused by negligence and have helped clients recover millions in compensation.
We understand the difficulty you may be facing after the untimely death of a loved one, which is why we try to make the claims process as simple as possible. We provide our legal services with no upfront fees and only require payment if we recover damages on your behalf.
To schedule a free, no obligation consultation with our attorneys, call (916) 777-7777.