The tragic and untimely loss of a loved one leaves surviving family members facing tremendous challenges. Not only are you dealing with the unimaginable heartbreak of your loved one’s absence, but you may also be struggling with the financial repercussions of their death.
If someone else’s negligence contributed to their death, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. These cases are a type of personal injury claim based on the same general principles of negligence.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In California, only certain people have legal standing to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the person who has died. They include:
- Spouses or domestic partners
- Stepchildren, in some circumstances
- Other heirs
Importantly, there can only be one wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties, which means that all of those with standing to file the claim must do so together.
How long do you have to file?
The deadline (statute of limitations) for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California is generally two years from the date of death. Different timelines apply for cases involving medical malpractice.
What kinds of compensation can you recover?
The damages (financial recovery) in wrongful death cases are similar to those in other personal injury cases. You can pursue:
- Economic damages for expenses incurred as a result of their fatal injury, including medical bills, as well as the loss of your loved one’s lifetime of financial support.
- Noneconomic (general) damages for the loss of your loved one’s companionship, as well as any pain and suffering they endured before they died.
Proving these damages, especially general damages, can be a central challenge of wrongful death cases. It’s important to work with a skilled lawyer who knows how to make a strong case.