California Wrongful Death Lawsuit
My relative died in a traffic accident. What do I file when someone is killed?
A California Wrongful Death Lawsuit is a personal injury claim that is filed when there is a loss of life. Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 is the basis for filing of a California wrongful death lawsuit which lets families recover damages when a loved one has died as the result of someone’s wrongful act.
Types of Damages
What can I get when someone is killed in a car accident?
Compensatory damages which include both economic and non-economic losses. The period for which such damages are recoverable is the shorter of (1) the deceased individual’s life expectancy at the time of the wrongful act or (2) the life expectancy of the plaintiff at the time of the wrongful act.
What if I was being supported. Can I get damages when someone is killed in a auto accident?
Economic damages if financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetimes. This includes the loss of gifts or benefits the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased; funeral and burial expenses; and, the reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided.
Non-economic damages in California wrongful death cases can include compensation for the loss of the decedent’s:
- Society and companionship;
- Moral support;
- Training and guidance; and,
- Sexual relations.
Death from a auto accident. Who pays for the bills?
California wrongful death lawsuit damages can include (but are not limited to):
- Funeral and burial expenses:
- Amounts the deceased would have earned as income; and.
- Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship and support.
- Punitive damages are not available in a California wrongful death lawsuit. However, punitive damages are available if there is a survival cause of action.
California wrongful death lawsuit code is similar to a cause of action for loss of consortium under California law except for the fact that a loss of consortium applies in situations in which a spouse or registered domestic partner is deprived of the companionship and intimacy of a living partner due to someone’s wrongful act.
California wrongful death lawsuit is frequently coupled with a California “survival action” which is a claim based on Code of Civil Procedure 377.30. Survival causes of actions are brought on behalf of the victim’s estate to compensate for losses suffered by the victim (as opposed to the family) from the wrongful act.
I am the spouse of someone who died. I am the child of someone who died. What can I get if my spouse was killed in an auto accident? What can I get if my parent was killed in an auto accident?
California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 allows the following family members (or their personal representatives) to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Domestic partners;
- Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased);
- Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support; and,
- Anyone else who would be entitled to the deceased’s property under California’s laws on intestate succession.
Causes of Action
Survivors can bring a wrongful death action for any type of claim based on negligence, gross negligence, recklessness or an intentional wrongful act.
Acts that give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Car accidents (including a DUI driver);
- Slip and fall;
- Assault and battery;
- Murder or manslaughter;
- Elder abuse or neglect;
- Child abuse or neglect; and,
- Medical malpractice.
Heirs can also sue in under a theory of strict liability should a loved one be killed by an animal or defective product.
Statute of limitations
The California statute of limitations for both wrongful death and survival actions is two years.
In a wrongful death case, the two years starts to run (accrue) on the date of death. For survival actions, the estate has two years to sue from the later of the date of an injury or six months after death.
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