California’s Wrongful Death Laws
The California Code of Civil Procedure includes clear rules pertaining to the rights of personal injury victims. Whenever a party causes a personal injury to another, the liable party is responsible for the injured party’s damages. In a typical personal injury case, the injured plaintiff files a Complaint with the help of an attorney, and the defendant has the opportunity to respond.
Wrongful death claims effectively replace personal injury claims when victims do not survive their injuries.
California upholds specific rules for wrongful death claims, including who may file them and the types of damages they can secure should they succeed with their claims. California state law allows the surviving spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, or sibling to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased does not have any close relatives, an extended family member who would have a claim on the deceased’s estate through intestate succession laws may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim instead. It is also possible for anyone with a valid claim on the contents of the deceased’s estate and/or financial dependency on the deceased to file a wrongful death claim.
The damages in a wrongful death claim typically exist in three forms: damages that would have been paid to the deceased had they survived, damages incurred by the deceased’s estate as the results of the death, and damages incurred by the deceased’s surviving loved ones. A successful wrongful death claim could potentially yield:
- Compensation for medical expenses the deceased incurred during their final injury or illness.
- Compensation for the funeral and burial expenses paid out of the deceased’s estate.
- Survivor benefits, which compensate surviving family members’ loss of affection, companionship, and love.
- Economic damages for losses incurred by the deceased’s estate due to the wrongful death.
In some cases, a wrongful death claim may also yield additional compensation in the form of restitution, punitive damages, or exemplary damages. California judges award such damages at their own discretion when a defendant’s behavior was intentionally harmful or beyond the scope of general negligence.
A wrongful death claim will follow a similar framework to a personal injury claim. The plaintiff of a wrongful death claim must prove that the defendant was responsible for the death in question. This typically requires proving negligence, or that the defendant failed to use reasonable care in a way that contributed to or directly caused the death. Some wrongful death claims filed by victims’ surviving loved ones run in tandem with criminal proceedings filed by the state against the defendant.
Wrongful death claims can be the best method for families to secure the compensation they need to recover from the financial losses resulting from a loved one’s unexpected death. While financial compensation cannot replace a lost loved one, holding the party responsible for the death legally accountable and providing additional economic relief to the family can allow them to mourn with security and peace of mind.
The Anaheim wrongful death attorneys at Easton & Easton understand how difficult it is to try and handle complex legal proceedings while you are also emotionally processing the loss of your loved one. We provide the compassionate legal counsel you need to handle the matter as swiftly and effectively as possible. Contact Easton & Easton today to schedule a case evaluation with an experienced Anaheim wrongful death lawyer and learn more about your family’s legal options.