California Wrongful Death Statutes You Should Know
In California, the party intending to file a wrongful death claim must do so within two years of the death in question. Alternatively, if the cause of death can’t be immediately determined, or if the defendant took any action to actively conceal their liability for the death, the statute of limitations will toll until the cause of death is discovered. For example, if you just recently discovered that a loved one recently died because of the negligence or intentional misconduct of another party, the discovery rule allows for one year in which to file your wrongful death action.
In addition to the time limit applicable to wrongful death suits in California, the state also restricts the right to file wrongful death claims based on the law of intestate succession. As a result, the first party with the right to file a wrongful death suit would be the deceased’s surviving spouse, followed by their children and other immediate family members.
If the deceased did not have any close family, the extended relatives or the personal representative named in the deceased’s estate would have the right to pursue a wrongful death action instead. Finally, if there are no family members or personal representatives eligible to file a wrongful death claim, anyone who can prove that they hold a valid claim to the deceased’s estate or that they were financially dependent on the deceased could file a wrongful death claim.
If you are struggling with the loss of your loved one and believe another party is responsible, reliable legal counsel from an experienced attorney can be an invaluable asset that helps you stay focused on your family’s practical needs and guides you to a positive outcome to your case. The emotional toll a wrongful death can take can be devastating, and Easton & Easton strives to ensure every client we represent has the compassionate and responsive legal counsel they need to understand their cases in clearer detail.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases in California
Depending on how your loved one died, the evidence you will require to establish fault for the wrongful death will vary based on the unique details of the case. Physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, and input from relevant expert witnesses can all play pivotal roles in a wrongful death case. Unfortunately, a wrongful death can suddenly upend the lives of the victim’s family, and it can be difficult to determine what kind of evidence you will need to prove fault for the death.
An experienced Newport Beach wrongful death attorney can provide valuable support and guidance when establishing liability for the death. The team at Easton & Easton has extensive experience handling all types of wrongful death claims. We can leverage our experience to help you determine the exact cause of your loved one’s untimely death. Some of the most commonly reported causes of unexpected deaths that generate civil disputes include:
- Motor vehicle accidents. Vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of death throughout the United States. Unfortunately, if a negligent driver caused your loved one’s death in a fatal accident, their auto insurance might only compensate a fraction of the total losses you and your family can claim in response to the wrongful death.
- Premises liability. A property owner can face liability for wrongful death if a lawful visitor to their property sustains a fatal injury during their visit. If you are unsure whether a property owner bears liability for a recent fatal slip and fall accident, it is crucial to consult an attorney as soon as possible.
- Interpersonal violence. California has a very high statewide rate of violent crime. If your loved one dies because of an intentional criminal act, the perpetrator faces severe criminal penalties in addition to liability for your family’s civil damages.
- Product liability. If a defective product causes the death of an end user, the manufacturer could face liability for wrongful death under California’s product liability statutes. In addition, when a defective product causes injuries or deaths, the manufacturer may be compelled to recall the product and arrange compensation for anyone harmed.
Whenever a person dies due to the actions of another party, the party at fault faces liability for the losses they inflict on the deceased’s family. Additionally, it is possible for the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit to seek additional compensation beyond what their claim would typically provide if the deceased’s final injury caused them to suffer for an extended period before they succumbed to their injuries.
If you are wondering whether the recent death of a loved one qualifies as a wrongful death, determine whether one or more parties could have caused the death. To succeed with your wrongful death claim, it is crucial to prove the defendant named in your claim directly caused the death of your loved one. This means proving they failed to exercise reasonable care in a manner resulting in the death or that they committed an intentional harmful act against your loved one that proved fatal.
It’s possible for the defendant responsible for causing the recent death of your loved one to face criminal prosecution. A few of the most common causes of wrongful deaths that generate criminal charges against the defendants responsible include driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving, and interpersonal violence.
Compensation for Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Actions in California
Wrongful death cases share many procedural similarities with personal injury claims in California. For example, both cases require plaintiffs to prove that the defendants named in their suits were intentionally harmful or negligent in a manner resulting in their claimed damages. However, while a personal injury claim seeks compensation for the victim’s damages, a wrongful death claim focuses on losses sustained by the victim’s family.
In a wrongful death claim, the surviving family of the deceased has the right to seek compensation for:
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Lost financial support provided by the deceased. This could include income the deceased could have expected to earn until retirement if they had survived.
- The value of the household services and childcare the deceased had provided.
- Lost affection, care, guidance, moral support, and consortium. In other words, the deceased’s family has the right to seek compensation for their pain and suffering.
If the victim of a wrongful death did not immediately die from their final injury, their estate likely incurred various damages between the final injury and their death. For example, hospital bills for treatment of their final injury and lifesaving intervention attempts, lost income from when they were unable to work, and property losses inflicted by the defendant are all losses claimable through a survival action. As the name suggests, a survival action aims for compensation the deceased could have sought in a personal injury suit if they had lived. Recently, California legislators enacted a new law that allows non-economic damages to be claimed in survival actions that reflect the pain and suffering a victim experienced before their death.
What to Expect From Newport Beach Wrongful Death Attorneys
The initial aftermath of an unexpected death in your family can be extremely difficult to navigate. Balancing the emotional distress of the situation and your practical concerns regarding the economic impact of the wrongful death is very challenging for anyone. However, if you have an experienced Newport Beach wrongful death attorney handling your legal proceedings, you and your family can have some small measure of peace of mind during this difficult time.
The reassurance of knowing your case is in reliable hands is just one of the benefits of hiring legal representation for your wrongful death claim in Newport Beach, CA. Your legal team will also assist you with court filings, ensuring your case meets all applicable deadlines and includes all necessary supporting documentation. Depending on how your loved one’s death happened, you may need various forms of evidence to prove liability for the wrongful death beyond any doubt.
Establishing fault for a wrongful death is the first phase of succeeding with your case. You must also prove the full scope of damages resulting from the incident in question, and you must also prove a clear causal link between the defendant’s intentional misconduct or negligence and the damages included in your wrongful death claim.
It’s also possible for your wrongful death suit to unfold in tandem with a criminal case against the defendant filed by the state. If any illegal conduct resulted in the death of your relative, your attorney could help you understand how this may influence your wrongful death proceedings. Ultimately, no single legal strategy works for every wrongful death claim, and every case will pose unique challenges and present important opportunities to plaintiffs. The best way to accurately address all the unique variables in your case is to consult an experienced Newport Beach wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after someone has caused the death of a loved one.
Newport Beach Wrongful Death Lawyer FAQs
Q: Can a Defendant Go to Jail for Causing a Wrongful Death?
A: Various criminal charges can come into play following a wrongful death, depending on how the defendant caused the death in question. If they caused a fatal vehicle accident because they were driving while intoxicated, or if they intended to cause physical harm to the victim and consequently caused their death, the defendant will likely face criminal penalties.
Q: What Happens if the Deceased Is Partially Liable for Causing Their Own Death?
A: California’s pure comparative negligence law can factor into a complex wrongful death claim if it is revealed that the decedent contributed to causing their death in any way. The judge ruling on the case would assign a fault percentage from the plaintiff and deduct this percentage from the final case award. However, remember that a wrongful death claim applies to the family’s losses, not the defendant’s, so comparative negligence is more likely to influence a survival action than a wrongful death claim.
Q: How Long Does It Take to Complete a Wrongful Death Case in California?
A: Many factors can influence the time required to resolve your wrongful death claim. If the defendant’s liability is in question, or if you have trouble accurately calculating the total compensation you can seek in your claim, it can take much longer to resolve than you may expect. A good Newport Beach wrongful death attorney can provide their client with an estimate of the timetable their case is likely to follow.
Q: Will My Wrongful Death Claim Go to Trial?
A: Most civil cases filed in California end in a private settlement. It’s typically in the best interests of all parties involved in a civil claim to take advantage of settlement to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. However, if a defendant claims they are not responsible for the death or if they caused the death in any manner leading to criminal charges from the state, the case may generate complex litigation.
Q: Is It Worth Hiring a Newport Beach Wrongful Death Attorney?
A: Reliable legal counsel can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of any civil claim. Easton & Easton accepts wrongful death claims on a contingency fee basis, meaning our client only owes a legal fee once we win their case. Therefore, there are no upfront costs or fees if we fail to secure a recovery on your behalf. Hiring an experienced attorney to represent your claim is an investment in the quality of the outcome of the case.
The attorneys at Easton & Easton understand how tragic the unexpected loss of a loved one can be, and the knowledge that another party caused your loved one’s death can add frustration to an already strong mix of emotions. However, if you have legal questions after the death of a loved one resulting from another party’s negligence in Newport Beach, we can help. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation with a Newport Beach wrongful death attorney you can trust.