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Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorneys

The sudden loss of a loved one is a shocking, life-altering event. Family members must learn how to carry on in the absence of the deceased, which can be especially challenging when the family provider passes away. After a death, surviving family members can be left in dire need of assistance in order to pay their bills, keep their homes, and protect their future.

In California, if a death is caused by the negligent or malicious actions of another party, the decedent’s family members may be able to recover damages for the wrongful death of their loved one. Recovering damages through a wrongful death claim can offer families some relief as they deal with the stress, grief, and financial burden of their loved one’s death. Surviving family members may be able to recover numerous compensatory damages through a wrongful death claim, including compensation for a loss of financial support, affection, and companionship. While no amount of money will ever make up for the pain of losing a family member, a successful wrongful death claim can help reduce financial stress and provide a sense of justice in the wake of a loved one’s passing.

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim due to the death of a loved one, LA Lawyers Group is here to help. Contact our Los Angeles wrongful death law firm today to receive a free case evaluation. Our experienced, caring, and compassionate wrongful death attorneys are dedicated to fighting for the rights of those who have lost a family member due to the negligent or malicious actions of another party.
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What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a unique type of lawsuit that allows certain family members to pursue compensation when their loved one dies due to someone else’s negligent or malicious actions. This type of civil lawsuit is brought to court directly by the survivors of the decedent. When a wrongful death claim is successful, the court orders the defendant to pay monetary damages to the decedent's survivors. 

Note that wrongful death claims are civil cases, rather than criminal cases. A criminal case, such as a homicide case, is something the state brings to court. When guilt is declared in a criminal case, it results in penalties such as jail time, prison time, or probation. Whereas, wrongful death claims are brought to court by surviving family members and, when successful, they result in court orders related to payment. It’s important to understand that wrongful death claims are both different and separate from criminal cases. These cases have different focuses and one does not preclude the other. A wrongful death claim can be brought to court even if a criminal case related to the same incident is in progress.

Who Can File For Wrongful Death in Los Angeles?

The State of California has strict guidelines regarding who may file a wrongful death claim. Per California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, the following parties can follow a wrongful death claim: 

  • The decedent’s spouse
  • The decedent’s children
  • The decedent’s registered domestic partner

If none of these parties exist or none of these parties want to file a wrongful death claim, anyone who could potentially inherit property from the deceased person may become eligible to file. Eligibility in this case is based on California estate distribution laws or intestate succession. Examples of parties that could potentially become eligible under these circumstances include: 

  • The decedent’s parents
  • The decedent’s immediate siblings
  • Non-related dependents of the decedent 
  • Putative spouses and stepchildren, provided they can show they were a financial dependent of the decedent
  • Any minors who were at least 50% financially dependent on the decedent

If you are not a surviving spouse, child, or registered domestic partner of the decedent, it can be challenging to determine whether or not you are entitled to file a wrongful death claim per California guidelines. If you’re unsure about your eligibility, consider consulting with a California wrongful death lawyer who can help you understand your legal options.

Who can file a wrongful death suit in Los Angeles?
What are common causes of wrongful death in California?

Common Causes of Wrongful Death in California

A wrongful death could occur due to a variety of negligent, reckless, or malicious actions. In California, some of the most common causes of wrongful death include: 

  • Assault and Battery
  • Car Accidents
  • Child Abuse and/or Neglect
  • Defective Product Accidents
  • Elder Abuse and/or Neglect
  • Medical Malpractice 
  • Murder or Manslaughter
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Premises Liability Accidents
  • Toxic Substance Exposure
  • Truck Accidents 
  • Workplace Accidents

How Can You Prove Wrongful Death?

To successfully prove a wrongful death claim, you generally need to demonstrate that the actions of the defendant led to the wrongful death due to either negligence or an intent to harm. In the event that a defective product killed a loved one, you may instead be able to hold a defendant strictly liable for your damages through California’s products liability law. 

Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim 

Legally, negligence is defined as a failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself of others. Negligence could lead to a wrongful death in numerous ways. Some examples of negligent acts that could lead to a wrongful death include drunk driving, prescription medication errors, or having unsafe conditions on one’s property. 

To prove negligence in a wrongful death claim, you must show that: 

  • A person died.
  • The defendant acted negligently or recklessly. 
  • The negligent or reckless actions of the defendant caused the person’s death. 
  • The decedent's surviving family members have suffered provable damages. 

Proving Intentional Harm in a Wrongful Death Claim 

Demonstrating intentional harm is often the necessary approach in wrongful death claims that involve violence. Some examples of potentially fatal acts that may be intentionally harmful include shooting someone, strangling someone, or purposefully hitting someone with a motor vehicle. 

To prove intentional harm in a wrongful death claim, you must show that: 

  • The defendant intended to commit the harmful act. 
  • The defendant made non-consensual contact with the victim. 
  • The defendant’s non-consensual contact caused the victim’s death. 

Product Liability and Wrongful Death

If a defective product injures or kills someone in California, the state’s product liability laws generally allow the victim to hold the product’s designer, manufacturer, distributor, or seller strictly responsible for their losses. It is not necessary to prove negligence in a product liability case in California. The fact that a defective product harmed someone is reason enough for liability per California law. However, to have a successful personal injury or wrongful death case, a victim would still need to prove the following:

  • The product in question was defective. 
  • The product’s defect caused the relevant injury or death. 
  • The product was used in a reasonable manner by the injured or deceased party. 
  • The plaintiff sustained damages due to the product’s defect. 

Many types of defective products could lead to a wrongful death. Some examples of defective products that could lead to death include defective automobiles, defective farm equipment, defective household products, defective medical devices, and defective pharmaceutical drugs.

How can you prove wrongful death in a lawsuit?
What damages are available in a wrongful death claim?

Damages Available in a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Claim

The damages available in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate surviving families for the losses they’ve suffered due to their loved one’s wrongful death. Per California law, plaintiffs in a wrongful death case can receive “just” damages for their losses. This qualifier is vague, which means the damages awarded to wrongful death victims may vary widely on a case-by-case basis. However, there are certain economic and non-economic compensatory damages that are generally available in a wrongful death claim, including compensation for: 

  • Funeral Expenses and Burial Expenses
  • Loss of Affection 
  • Loss of Care and Protection
  • Loss of Companionship 
  • Loss of Financial Support
  • Loss of Household Services
  • Loss of Love
  • Loss of Moral Support
  • Loss of Prospective Gifts or Benefits
  • Loss of Sexual Relations
  • Loss of Training, Guidance, and Advice

While a variety of compensatory damages are available in a wrongful death claim, it’s important to note that certain damages are not available in wrongful death claims. The damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate the surviving family member for their losses. They are not meant to compensate the surviving family member for the decedent’s losses. So, damages related to things such as the decedent’s pain, emotional distress, or pre-death medical expenses cannot be recovered through a wrongful death claim. However, plaintiffs may be able to file a survival action to recover these types of damages. 

A survival lawsuit allows heirs to sue on behalf of the decedent’s estate. An estate can generally be compensated for two types of losses:

  • Claims unrelated to the decedent’s death for which they had the right to sue for at the time of their death.
  • Claims related to the injuries that caused the decedent’s death, provided the decedent survived for a period of time after their injuries (even if for an exceedingly brief amount of time). 

Filing a survival action can help plaintiffs recover compensation for a variety of losses that cannot be addressed through a wrongful death claim. This includes damages for things like the decedent’s lost wages, medical bills, emotional distress, and loss of consortium. 

Filing a survival action also opens up the possibility of recovering punitive damages. Punitive damages are monetary damages that are awarded by a judge as a way of punishing a defendant who has acted maliciously, oppressively, or fraudulently. Punitive damages are not available in a wrongful death lawsuit in California. However, they can potentially be recovered through a survival action.

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The standard statute of limitations in California for wrongful death claims is two years. This time period begins on the date of the relevant death. The standard statute of limitations for survival actions is also two years. The time period for survival actions begins either two years from the date of the decedent’s injury or six months after their death, whichever is later. 

There are some exceptions to these aforementioned rules. If the cause of the decedent’s death was not obvious when they died and became apparent at a later date, this may extend the amount of time the decedent’s family has to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This may cause the two year time period allocated by California’s statute of limitations for wrongful death claims to begin at the time this information is discovered, rather than at the time of the death. Additionally, cases involving the government, such as when a government entity or employee would be at fault for a wrongful death, have a shorter statute of limitations. Surviving family members have only six months to pursue a claim or lawsuit if the at-fault party is a government entity.

How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim?

Get Help From a Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim, contact LA Lawyers Group to receive a free case evaluation. Our dedicated, compassionate, and experienced wrongful death attorneys are here to guide you through this challenging process and fight for your right to recover justice in your case. The personal injury attorneys at our law office have helped surviving family members across Southern California recover justice for the wrongful death of a loved one. Our team represents clients from across Orange County and Los Angeles County, including clients from Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Century City, Glendale, and Burbank.

Call our law firm today at (213)LAWYERS (529-9377) to receive your free consultation with one of our Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers.

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