We can’t imagine what you’re going through, but we want to help get the justice your loved one deserves.
The loss of a loved one is always shocking. Family members left behind must figure out how to carry on, which can be very difficult when a family breadwinner has died. Survivors often need compensation to help them stay in their home, pay their bills, and plan for the future.
At Levinson Law Group, we have represented many grieving family members in wrongful death lawsuits in California, and we are here to answer any questions you have.
Wrongful Death in California
A wrongful death is any death caused by a wrongful or negligent act. These can include intentional acts, such as shooting or stabbing someone, or careless actions, such as backing up and hitting a pedestrian because the driver did not check the rearview mirror.
Had the victim lived, he or she could bring a personal injury lawsuit for damages against the person who injured them. However, because the victim has died, the person who caused the injury (and death) should not be let off the hook.
For decades, California did not allow family members to sue the person who killed their loved one—a bizarre situation, indeed, where someone could get off scot free because a victim died. Fortunately, the law has changed, and the person responsible for your loved one’s death can be hauled into court and sued.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in California?
The California wrongful death statute lays out who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- The surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The surviving children
- If there are no survivors, then any who is entitled to the property can bring a lawsuit, such as the deceased person’s siblings
The statute also allows certain people to bring a wrongful death lawsuit if they were financially dependent on the deceased:
- The deceased’s putative spouse and any children born to the putative spouse
- Stepchildren of the deceased
- The parents of the deceased
If you do not know whether you have an ability to bring this type of lawsuit, then you should meet with a wrongful death California attorney for a consultation to review your rights.
What are Wrongful Death Damages in California?
If the defendant is responsible for your loved one’s death, then you can receive compensation in the form of money damages. The purpose of these damages is to compensate survivors for their losses.
In California, you might receive damages for the following:
- Household services. Your loved one might have done all the cooking, cleaning, child rearing, or work around the house. Since their death, you need to hire someone else to do these tasks. You can receive a sum of money to pay for it.
- Lost anticipated financial support. This is often a serious loss. If your spouse died, you were probably expecting their income to help support the family. If you are the child of the deceased, then you were expecting support at least until you reach adulthood. You can receive a sum of money to replace this lost support.
- Intangible losses, like the loss of affection, guidance, attention, moral support, and love. The jury will have to use its experience to calculate how much money can compensate you for these losses.
The estate can also bring a claim for certain expenses, such as the cost of burial and funeral expenses, medical expenses to treat a final illness, and any lost wages from the date of the injury until death.
Proving damages can be tricky and is one of the reasons you need an attorney. To properly judge loss of financial support, you might need an expert witness who can testify as to how much your loved one could have earned had he lived based on education and experience. To help prove loss of love and affection, you might need to testify about your relationship in court.
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The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations for California
California does not give surviving family members forever to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, it sets a two-year deadline in its statute of limitations. This two-year clock starts running from the date of your loved one’s death.
If you fail to file in time, then the defendant can ask the judge to dismiss your case, and the judge almost certainly will. This will result in the defendant being let completely off the hook and surviving family members not receiving any compensation.
It is best to avoid delay, so reach out to a wrongful death California attorney.
How Wrongful Death Cases Differ from Criminal Trials
Wrongful death lawsuits have several key differences from criminal trials for murder or manslaughter. Consider the following:
- The prosecutor brings a criminal prosecution. Conversely, surviving family members bring a civil lawsuit in civil court.
- A criminal case has a higher burden of proof—guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence, meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for your loved one’s death.
- A defendant convicted of a crime can go to jail, serve time on probation, and will have a criminal record. In a wrongful death lawsuit, a defendant will only pay money to the family members.
- Some conduct doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense. For example, ordinary negligence probably cannot sustain a manslaughter charge. However, a defendant can still be sued for wrongful death.
Wrongful death cases are complicated, and family member should not try to bring them on their own. Instead, reach out to an experienced attorney who can advise you of your rights and build your case in an appropriate manner.
Contact an Experienced California Wrongful Death Attorney Now
After a loved one’s shocking death, you might not know who to turn to or who to trust. You are not alone. Please call us.
At the Levinson Law Group, we have helped many family members bring wrongful death lawsuits, and we understand the unique challenges these cases pose. One of our attorneys can meet with you to discuss your case and advise you of your options.
To schedule your free consultation, please call or send us an online message. Avoid delay.