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An Overview of Wrongful Death Law in California

Posted by attorney R. Bomberger

A wrongful death claim is a civil action against a person or party that can be held liable for another person's death. Wrongful death claims can arise out of any situation leading to the accidental death of another person, including fatal auto accidents, medical negligence by doctors, fatal falls, deaths due to negligent supervision of a minor, and countless other causes. Claims can arise from deaths of infants, children, adults and elderly people – the age of the victim does not matter. A claim may be brought against a person, such as an at fault driver in an auto accident, or a company, such as the manufacturer or a dangerous pharmaceutical product.

The damages available for a wrongful death claim will vary depending on a situation. Damages may include economic damages like future earnings the decedent would have contributed to the heir and final funeral and burial expenses, and non economic damages, such as the loss of the victim's love, companionship and affection. Additional damages for infliction of emotional distress may be available in cases where a parent or sibling witnesses the injury or death of the victim.

Only certain individuals may file a claim for the wrongful death of someone else, and eligibility varies depending on who survived the decedent. In descending order of priority, claimants may include the victim's surviving spouse, children, other dependent minors living in his or her household, parents, siblings, grandparents, or next of kin.

Because the amount of time you have to file a claim is limited by statute, it is important to talk to a skilled, qualified California wrongful death attorney ( after an accident. Time is of the essence, not just for preserving witnesses, but for ensuring your legal rights to file a claim are not lost. The amount of time you have to bring a claim varies, and may be as little as six months in some cases, if you are bringing a claim against a public agency or government entity.

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