Per California rules, a wrongful death occurs when a party is killed by the negligence or wrongful acts of another. The family of the deceased or the person handling the estate files the civil lawsuit against the party or entity that is believed to have caused the death. As an example of an entity, it could be a medical practice, a trucking firm, a hospital, or a business.
A wrongful death case is different from the criminal case for homicide or murder. A wrongful death claim is a cash award paid to the survivors. Those survivors are typically a spouse, child, or parent. If the deceased had no living parents, children, or spouse, it would go to the next person in line or who was financially dependent on the deceased, such as a partner, sibling, or stepchild.
What Are the Requirements for a Wrongful Death Claim?
The most important part of a wrongful death claim is that you meet the legal requirements for filing.
#1 – The Death at the Hands of Another
Someone needs to have died at the hands of another. That death may have been caused by someone’s error or intent. For example, if a loved one is killed during a bank robbery, that robber was acting intentionally and is liable for his/her actions. The wrongful death claim could be filed. The party who files must be:
- a child
- a spouse
- the representative of the estate
If those three parties do not exist, the next person in the line of descent, such as a parent, sibling, or partner. Those parties are unlikely to qualify if they were not financially dependent on the decedent.
#2 – Personal Loss
It’s important to remember that you must suffer a personal loss from the death. For example, if a woman’s husband is killed by a drunk driver and his income paid for their house, she’s at risk of losing her home without his income. She is entitled to the income that her husband is expected to have made during his lifetime.
The estate is allowed compensation for the cost of the funeral/burial/memorial expenses. The estate can also seek compensation for all bills related to the death, which includes hospital, ambulance, and other medical bills.
Children who lose a parent, and vice versa, are entitled to a financial determination for the loss of emotional and moral support their parent or child was providing. The emotional toll of a loved one’s death is severe and can have a great impact on your mental health, physical health, and relationships.
#3 – The Statute of Limitations Hasn’t Passed
Like most states, California has a statute of limitations regarding a wrongful death claim. You have two years to file the claim. If you miss this deadline, you may well forfeit the chance to file at all, but you should ask an attorney with expertise in wrongful death claims to be certain.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases in California
If you’re still not sure if you qualify or not, here are some examples of wrongful death cases in California.
A toddler was killed when the dresser in his bedroom tipped over as he held onto it. His parents won $46 million due to the fact that the manufacturer hadn’t taken measures to fix problems with stability in that line of dressers. In addition to the financial award, they also won measures that require the manufacturer to meet with specialists to improve stability and prevent tip-overs, to donate to children safety organizations, and to take additional steps to warn past customers who purchased that dresser line.
The family of a single mother won a verdict of around $742,000. The woman suffered from bipolar disorder. Her sister had to pick her daughter up at the request of social services. The sister wanted to return to calm her sister, but the police allegedly said they would take care of it. They allegedly left her alone instead and she committed suicide.
Those are just two of the many examples of wrongful death cases. Circumstances vary from one situation to the next. If you suspect your loved one died unnecessarily, it’s best to ask for legal advice.
Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley is an award-winning law firm that specializes in wrongful death cases. The attorneys have helped secure more than $1.5 billion in settlements and verdicts for their clients. They helped one family secure $45 million after a drunk driver killed their mother. Don’t hesitate. If you have questions about a loved one’s death, our free legal consultations help you understand your rights. Call 1-888-CZR-FIRST at your earliest convenience. Our attorneys are available 24/7.