medics putting man in ambulance

What Damages Are Available In A Wrongful Death Case?

The loss of a loved one may cause immense suffering to the surviving family members. Apart from emotional distress arising out of the deceased’s death, they are bound to suffer financial losses. Typically these losses arise from the medical expenses as well as burial expenses incurred throughout the difficult period. 

For this reason, the law provides that the decedent’s family members have a right to pursue compensation for their losses by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Here are the damages that you may be eligible to recover in a wrongful death claim in California.

Understanding California’s Wrongful Death Law

Following the death of a loved one that occurred due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act, the decedent’s family members have recourse in law. Section 377.60 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure allows surviving family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the tortfeasor.

Essentially, this type of claim allows them to recover any losses suffered as a result of the death of their loved one, and at the same time, it cushions them from incurring any losses in the future.

What Are Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

“Damages” is a legal term that denotes the plaintiff’s claimed losses in a wrongful death claim. In other words, it is the compensation sought after by a plaintiff when they file a wrongful death or any other personal injury claim in California.

What Damages Can be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case in California?

In the event of a successful claim, the plaintiff, who in this case is the decedent’s family members, may be entitled to damages which are intended to compensate them for their losses. Such compensatory damages may include economic and non-economic losses as provided under California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 3921.

Economic Damages

California Civil Jury Instructions No. 3921 provides the following economic damages recoverable in a claim:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Any financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetime
  • The loss of gifts or benefits the plaintiff would have expected to receive from the deceased
  • The reasonable dollar value of household services that the deceased would have provided to the heirs 

Non-economic Damages

The non-economic damages that may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit are for the following impact on the family members:

  • Loss of the deceased’s love, comfort, companionship, affection, protection, assistance and moral support
  • Loss of the deceased’s guidance
  • The loss of enjoyment of sexual relations

Noteworthy is that there is no universal cap for deciding the amount of non-economic damages in a California wrongful death lawsuit. In essence, this means that the jury may award any reasonable amount to the present situation based on the evidence and common sense.

How is the Value of a Wrongful Death Claim Calculated in California?

Typically most wrongful death claims in California involve an insurance company. This means that negotiations for settlement are often common and are likely to occur until an amicable agreement regarding a fair amount is arrived at. 

However, if an out-of-court settlement doesn’t solve the underlying issue of compensation, the case may proceed to court and is decided by a jury and a judge. Either way, the party tasked with determining the appropriate amount to award the plaintiff will use a certain process to determine the fair award.

To put this into context, economic damages are calculated using hard evidence. Hard evidence denotes receipts, bills and the invoices of the deceased’s past pay stubs. 

Furthermore, the surviving family members’ economic losses associated with the death will be combined with the future projected losses to arrive at an exact or estimated value of an appropriate amount of economic damages.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are more complex and involve multiple factors. The value will be calculated based on what the jury deems reasonable and is based on evidence and common sense. 

Does California’s Wrongful Death Law Place a Cap on Damages?

California doesn’t place a limit on how much compensation can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. Oftentimes, the amount of compensation awarded, especially for economic damages, is discretional. However, the only exceptional circumstances where a cap is placed on damages is in a claim involving medical malpractice.

Put briefly, in a medical malpractice wrongful death claim, the deceased’s family members can’t recover more than $250,000 in non-economic damages.

Can Heirs Get Punitive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

The simple answer is no. California’s wrongful death law doesn’t allow an heir to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages can only be recovered through a survival action filed on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

The wrongful death statute of limitations is two years. This means that a claim for compensation must be filed within two years after the death of a loved one. 

It is imperative to seek help from a competent and qualified wrongful death attorney who will help you understand the law applicable in your case and, at the same time, shed light on the options available. This helps you make an informed decision on the basis of a successful claim.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys in California

If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence, you might be entitled to damages under California’s wrongful death statute. However, obtaining compensation is not straightforward. There are certain things that you must satisfy to be eligible for compensation, and at the same time, you need to have filed the claim within the time frame provided under the statute of limitations.

For this reason, you need a competent and qualified wrongful death attorney at LA Century Law that will help secure your rights and interests throughout the claim process. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

medics transport victim

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit In California?

There is nothing harder than the loss of a life of a loved one. Losing a loved one at the hands of another person or entity’s negligence or wrongdoing makes the pain so much more difficult.

Research suggests that approximately 190,000 people in the US die due to wrongful death. When this happens, the deceased’s family members often suffer from emotional distress and financial hardships arising from losing their loved ones. 

California law provides for legal recourse and damages for the loss of a loved one. We understand that no amount of compensation in the world can bring back a loved one. However, our legal system allows you to hold the person responsible through legal action.

Put briefly, if the death was a result of someone else’s negligence, recklessness or intentional act, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Only certain heirs are eligible to make a claim for the loss of a loved one. These rules are strict.

Here are some of the fundamental facts you need to know about a wrongful death lawsuit, whether you are eligible to file the lawsuit and how a qualified attorney at LA Century Law can assist you.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

In California, a wrongful death lawsuit is a claim filed following the death of a loved one that occurred due to the legal fault of another person or entity. Typically, a wrongful death lawsuit arises due to acts such as negligence, medical malpractice or any other intentional act that causes the death of a person.

To file a successful claim in California, you need to demonstrate that:

  • Someone died
  • Their death occurred due to someone else’s negligence or intentional acts
  • The surviving family members suffered damages or any other losses as a result of the death
  • A representative of the deceased’s estate has been selected

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

To pursue a wrongful death claim in California, you must satisfy the eligibility criteria set out under California’s wrongful death statute. Typically, the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is reserved for family members as they are deemed to be most affected by the loss of their loved ones. However, this doesn’t preclude others from filing the lawsuit once they demonstrate they have a genuine interest in the claim or demonstrate they have a connection with the deceased.

Here is a list of the individuals who are eligible as plaintiffs to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

The Decedent’s Surviving Spouse

If the deceased person was married at the time of their death, their surviving registered domestic partner has a genuine cause of action. In other words, they have the primary right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Despite this, a surviving spouse may be barred from filing a wrongful death lawsuit if it is established that they lack capacity or they are deemed not legally competent. In such a case, the party may choose to waive their right.

A “putative” spouse may also be considered eligible to file this type of lawsuit. A putative spouse is a person who believed that they were in a valid marriage with the deceased when, in reality, the marriage was void or voidable. The putative spouse will only be eligible to file the suit if they can demonstrate that they genuinely believed to be in a valid marriage with the deceased and, at the same time, they financially relied on the deceased.

The Decedent’s Surviving Children

The surviving children of the victim are also qualified to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. This includes biological, adoptive and even stepchildren of the deceased. Minors who have lived with the deceased for at least 180 days before the death are also eligible to file the claim. However, they must demonstrate that they relied on the deceased for at least 50 percent of their financial support to succeed.

Also, grandchildren may be included in this list. Although a rare inclusion, they may be eligible to file the suit if the decedent’s children are deceased.

Parents of the Deceased

If you have lost your minor child or an adult with no descendants, you are eligible to file a lawsuit. What’s more, if the decedent was an adult, you may still be eligible to file the lawsuit once you prove that you were financially dependent on them.

Other Heirs of the Deceased

Other heirs of the deceased are typically eligible to file the lawsuit if none of the above family members survives the deceased. As such,  California’s intestate succession laws will apply to determine who is eligible to file the suit.

California’s intestate laws allow those deemed to be heirs of the deceased’s estate to file a wrongful death claim. Oftentimes, it is difficult to determine who should file the claim since there may be several people eligible to file the claim. For this reason, it is imperative to have a competent and qualified wrongful death attorney to help establish eligibility.

A Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate

If numerous people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased’s family members may choose to assign a personal representative of the deceased’s estate. As such, the role of the personal representative is to file a single claim on behalf of the family members or any other interested parties.

Essentially, this helps simplify the suit and, at the same time, ease the conflict that tends to ensue. 

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Like most claims, a wrongful death lawsuit is subject to the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in California, specifically under section 335.1 of California’s Code of Civil Procedure, provides that a wrongful death lawsuit should be filed within two years after the victim’s death.

That said, this timeframe may be confusing, especially if the victim’s death did not occur immediately. For this reason, you need to seek help from a qualified attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and interests.

Need help? Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney.

If your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although the statute of limitations provides for a timeframe of two years, you need to file the lawsuit as soon as possible.

An attorney at LA Century Law understands California’s wrongful death law and has experience handling these types of suits. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is a death caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another person. (CA Code of Civ. Pro. § 377.60) Claims generally are made by the surviving spouse, parents, or children of the decedent. As the plaintiffs, it’s their job to prove their case.

Since the victim is not there to testify, the surviving family members will need to establish negligence of the party responsible for causing the wrongful death. This creates a litany of issues, which is why it is so important to have the right attorneys and investigators investigate the matter.

As you proceed to build your wrongful death claim, it’s important to keep in mind how to go about proving the case. We have provided answers to some of the most common questions we receive from family members that have lost a loved one.

How do you prove wrongful death in California?

To prove wrongful death in California, you must prove the elements of the claim without the benefit of testimony from the victim. Other witnesses and tangible evidence may be used to establish the wrongful act, causation and damages to prove the elements of the claim and the right to compensation.

Proving wrongful death in California

The party bringing the claim has the burden to prove their right to damages, and are generally in the form of money. In wrongful death cases, the party bringing the claim is the surviving family.

In addition, there are some differences in the burden of proof required that may allow damages to be proven with other witnesses and evidence. A wrongful death claim focuses on the loss of the family members and the victim’s contributions to the family. 

On the other hand, a personal injury claim focuses on the losses and suffering of the victim. Understanding what you must prove, and working to build admissible evidence of these elements, allows you to make your claim successful.

What types of evidence may be used to prove wrongful death in California?

As you prepare your claim for wrongful death, you may rely on any of the following evidence:

  • Testimony of witnesses involved in the accident
  • Testimony of family members and others familiar with the family
  • Statements and findings of law enforcement and other investigators who examined the accident scene
  • Admissions that the opposing party made to others
  • Photographs and video of the accident and its aftermath
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Medical records and expert testimony
  • Financial records, wage statements and occupational experts
  • Items and objects damaged
  • Employment and training records
  • Receipts and loss statements
  • Death certificate and autopsy reports

These are just examples of common evidence used in wrongful death claims. You must investigate and determine the best evidence to present in your situation.

What do you have to prove in a California wrongful death claim?

Proving a wrongful death claim in California means establishing each element of the offense. If even one element of the case is missing, the case fails. Proving a wrongful death claim in California means providing evidence of each of the following: 

Negligence or a wrongful act

Negligence or a wrongful act is the foundation of any wrongful death claim. For a party to be liable to pay damages, they must have acted negligently or somehow wrongfully. It’s the same standard that applies in all personal injury claims. Negligence may be an affirmative action, or it may be a failure to act. 

To prove negligence, you must prove the standard of care and a breach of the duty of care. Witnesses may be used as well as other forms of evidence like documents, violations of laws and codes and photographs that show the accident scene. Negligence may be the basis of a claim, but recklessness and intentional wrongful acts may also form the basis of a wrongful death claim. 

Note: The duty of care may vary depending on the cause of the injury. Identifying the standard of care ensures that you demonstrate the correct facts showing the legal liability of the defendant.

A death occurred

Proving a wrongful death claim requires proving that a death occurred. This may be proven with a death certificate and medical testimony. An autopsy may show the manner of death.

The victim’s death was the result of the wrongful act

Along with proving that a death occurred, you must prove that the death resulted from the negligence or wrongful act of the defendant. Another name for this legal concept is causation. Usually, you will rely on expert testimony to speak to the cause of death and how the accident caused fatal injuries. 

Damages resulted

Once the plaintiffs have established that the defendant is liable for a wrongful act, and that the wrongful act caused the victim’s death, they must prove their damages. Of course, damages have occurred – you have suffered the unimaginable loss of your loved one. Specific damages that you may prove for compensation are funeral and burial costs, lost financial support from the victim, lost household services, love, companionship, comfort and moral support and other losses. 

Proving these losses may require testimony, information about life expectancy, the victim’s education and income and other information that may be relevant to showing what the family has lost in the loss of their loved one.

The victims have standing to bringing the case

Only qualifying family members may bring a wrongful death claim. The plaintiffs should be prepared to show their standing to bring the case under California law.

In addition to proving each element of the case, the plaintiffs must be prepared to refute evidence that is presented by the defense. They may disagree factually with some of the evidence, or they may present affirmative defenses.

Lawyers for Proving Wrongful Death

Proving a wrongful death claim can be a complex undertaking. By carefully reviewing the elements that you must prove, you can gather the appropriate evidence.

At LA Century Law, we take on difficult cases, and win. When you need help after the unimaginable loss of a loved one, we’re here to prove the case and your right to compensation. Contact us today to talk about how we can bring your case and seek justice for your loved one and your family.

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1880 Century Park East, Suite 1101 Los Angeles, CA 90067

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