In California, as in many other states, a claim for wrongful death arises when a person's death is legally caused by the negligent actions of another person or entity. Car accidents, medical malpractice, and intentional acts are examples of incidents that can result in the death of a person caused by the negligence of another.
Statute of Limitations For Wrongful Death Claim
The statute of limitations refers to the time period that a person has to commence an action (i.e., lawsuit) to recover damages. If the lawsuit is not filed within the time prescribed by the statute of limitations, then (absent any applicable exceptions) the lawsuit will be barred and no recovery can be made. In California, a wrongful death claimant has two years to file the lawsuit. Code of Civil Procedure section 335.1 states: "Within two years: An action for assault, battery, or injury to, or for the death of, an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another."
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Action
The State of California has given the following persons the legal right to bring a cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another: (1) the surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving issue of the deceased, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to the property via intestate succession; (2) and persons who were dependent on the decedent, the putative spouse, children of the putative spouse, stepchildren, parents, or the legal guardians of the decedent if the parents are deceased; (3) a minor, if, at the time of the decedent's death, the minor resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent's household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor's support.
Code of Civil Procedure section 377.60 provides the statutory basis for those who can bring a wrongful death claim.
What Damages Can Be Recovered
Assuming the person who brought the wrongful death lawsuit has proved their case, then they can recover the amount of money that will reasonably compensate them for the death of their loved one. This compensation is called damages. Damages for the wrongful death of an adult falls into two categories called economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are for items such as the financial support the deceased person would have contributed to the family during their life expectancy, the loss of gifts or benefits from the deceased, funeral and burial expenses, and the reasonable value of household services that the deceased would have provided.
Noneconomic damages are for items such as loss of the deceased's love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support, loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations, and loss of the deceased's training and guidance.
There is no fixed standard used to decide the amount of noneconomic damages. The jury will use their judgment to decide a reasonable amount based on the evidence presented to the jury and based on the jury's common sense.
The surviving families grief, sorrow, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and poverty or wealth is not to be considered by the jury and are not compensable items of damage to the family.
Contact Blain Law, APC
David Blain, Esq. has handled hundreds of injury cases over the past twelve years, including claims for the wrongful death of a family member. If you're the family of a person who was killed by the wrongful act or neglect of another person or entity, then contact us today for a free consultation.