If a loved one is involved in an accident that is caused by someone else’s negligence, in the best cases, he or she will walk away with minor injuries. Unfortunately however, many such accidents are fatal. In such instances, you may think that you have no recourse for the loss of your loved one. Fortunately, in California, this is not the case. It is possible to recover compensation from the negligent party by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful deaths occur in instances where someone is killed by the neglect, negligence or intentional act of another person, company or government entity. Some instances where a wrongful death can occur are motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, criminal acts and workplace accidents. Although the person responsible for the death may also face criminal charges for his or her actions, this does not affect your right to file a wrongful death lawsuit, as it is a separate proceeding.
The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is controlled by statute. Under California law, only certain close family members may file this type of lawsuit to collect compensation. Most of the time, such lawsuits are filed by spouses, children and domestic partners. However, parents, siblings and other persons financially dependent on the deceased may also bring the lawsuit. If the deceased died without any financial dependents, the personal representative of his or her estate may bring the lawsuit.
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the decedent’s estate for losses associated with the death. In addition, this type of lawsuit is intended to compensate family members for their financial and emotional losses. Under California law, the losses that may be recovered in the lawsuit include:
Funeral and burial expenses
Loss of current and future income that the decedent would reasonably be expected to earn had he or she lived
Loss of financial support
Reasonable value of household services
Loss of affection, moral support, guidance and companionship
Wrongful death lawsuits are intended to be a means of recovering losses, not as a way to punish the responsible party. As a result, punitive damages cannot be awarded in most cases. However, an exception occurs if the responsible party is convicted of a felony for his or her role in the death.
Speak With An Attorney
If a loved one has died because of someone else’s actions, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible, as there is a time limit to file a wrongful death claim. An experienced attorney can listen to your situation and help you recover the compensation that will allow you to more easily move on with your life.