In a wrongful death lawsuit, you can recover money from a person or business who acted wrongfully or negligently, which caused the death of someone close to you.
There is perhaps no greater pain in this life than losing a loved one. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the wrongful act of another, California law may allow you to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the person who was wrongfully killed.
In order to recover for the wrongful death of someone close to you, your relationship to the deceased must be that of:
- surviving spouse or domestic partner
- child or grandchild
- legal guardian
- legal heir
If you can pass this legal test of being in close relationship with the decedent, you then have standing to bring a lawsuit against the wrongdoers for the loss you have suffered.
Understanding a Wrongful Death Claim
Only One Lawsuit Allowed
Normally in civil law, it is possible to have multiple people (“plaintiffs”) bringing multiple lawsuits against a common wrongdoer (the “defendant”).
With a wrongful death action, however, California only allows a single lawsuit against the defendant. Under this one lawsuit, all heirs of the deceased must join their claims against the defendant. Alternatively, a single representative can sue on behalf of all the heirs, but the statute limits the lawsuit to a single claim.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have after the wrongful conduct to bring a lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death action in California depends on the context in which the death occurred. Some examples include:
- Death due to Asbestos Exposure – 1 year statute of limitations
- Death due to Hazardous Material Exposure (other than Asbestos) – 2 year statute of limitations
- Death as a Result of Torture or Murder – 10 year statute of limitations
There are many different types of factual scenarios that can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongdoing of another, the clock is ticking and you have only a limited amount of time to pursue your claim.
It is best to consult with an attorney to learn your rights given the facts of your specific situation. You can contact us today by calling 949-973-6478, or by clicking the Free Consultation button below.
Types of Damages
If a person close to you was killed, there are a couple of different ways this can injure you.
If you were financially dependent on the decedent, you are now left without that economic support. This loss of economic support can factor into the court’s damages assessment of your case.
Further, after losing a loved one, you are now left to try and make do without the care, comfort, and society of the person you lost. While no number can truly be placed on the value of your lost relationship, the court or jury will do its best to assign a monetary value to compensate you for the loss you have suffered.
Defenses to a Wrongful Death Claim
When you bring a lawsuit against a defendant, that defendant will try to assert legal defenses in order to be found not liable, or to try and reduce the amount of money you can recover against the defendant. Below are potential defenses the defendant may assert against your wrongful death claim.
In California, a wrongful death claim is purely a statutory right, meaning the basis for the law is a statute (CCP §377.60) rather than case law.
The California Supreme Court has held it was not the legislature’s intent to allow a wrongful death cause of action on behalf of an unborn child, and any such claims will be barred.
It is said that “the plaintiff steps inside the shoes of the decedent,” meaning if the decedent who was killed acted negligently (called “contributory negligence”), then this will reduce the plaintiff’s recovery against the defendant to the degree the decedent is found negligent.
Assumption of Risk
Some activities are inherently dangerous. If your loved one was killed while engaging in an inherently dangerous activity, the defendant may assert the “assumption of risk” defense, which says the decedent assumed the risk of death by engaging in an activity that is inherently dangerous.
This defense may or may not be an absolute bar to your recovery, depending on the facts. Sometimes your ability to recover damages from the defendant boils down to whether a waiver of liability was signed, and the scope of that waiver.
Find Justice Today
Although nothing can truly replace the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death attorney can help you find the path to healing and recovery after your loss.
If someone close to you was killed due to the wrongful act of another, you need a compassionate, caring, and zealous attorney by your side.
Call us today for a free consultation at 949-973-6478.
If you would like us to reach out to you, simply click the Free Consultation button below so we can contact you to set up your free consultation.