Legal Guide

The Benefits of Filing a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Losing a loved one in a tragic accident or to sudden violence is a terrible thing to endure. That loss can seem harder when no one is held responsible for causing your loved one’s death. Criminal investigations can take years to unfold. Sadly, these cases often end without enough evidence to prosecute an offender.

In California, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for the loss of your family member. However, California law does not allow just anyone to file a wrongful death claim. In this short post, our expert personal injury lawyers will walk you through who can file a California wrongful death claim. We’ll also explain why filing a wrongful death suit may be good for your mental health after suffering a tragic loss.

Who Can Bring a Claim for Wrongful Death in California

After losing a loved one, talking to a lawyer may be the last thing you want to do. However, a lawyer is the best person to advise you whether you may have standing or not. “Standing” simply means “whether you have the legal right to bring a claim.” Under California law, only certain individuals are entitled to recover monetary damages due to someone else’s death. These individuals include a surviving spouse (or domestic partner), a surviving child (including dependent step-children and certain unrelated minors), and dependent parents or other heirs.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim as a Surviving Spouse

A surviving spouse of an accident or crime victim should contact a lawyer to discuss a wrongful death lawsuit. In California, the wrongful death laws cover the rights of domestic partners as well. If you were financially dependent on the deceased and in a long-term, live-in, marriage-like relationship, be sure to discuss a California wrongful death lawsuit with a lawyer.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim as a Surviving Child

Losing a parent at any age is hard. Biological and adopted children always have standing to file wrongful death claims if their parents are killed. Stepchildren who depended financially on the deceased can also file a claim. Certain unrelated minors who lived with and depended on the deceased may also have standing to file a claim.

Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim as a Parent or Other Surviving Heir

Parents who have lost a minor child also have a claim for wrongful death in California. Likewise, if you’re the parent of an adult child with no other surviving heirs, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Parents also have the right to bring a wrongful death suit if they show they were financially dependent on their child.

Potential Pitfalls of California Wrongful Death Claims

One Action Rule

California has something called a “one action rule.” This means that all claimants must join in one lawsuit so a responsible party only has to fight one lawsuit. One purpose of this law is to help avoid inconsistent results that could come out of multiple lawsuits stemming from the same issues. Therefore, if you bring a wrongful death claim in California, you need to let your lawyer know of any and all potential heirs of the deceased.

Statute of Limitations

In most cases, under California law, wrongful death in California lawsuits need to be filed within two years of your loved one’s injury or death. In other situations, like medical malpractice, or a lawsuit concerning government liability, the statute of limitations can be as long as three years and as short as six months.

Mental Health Benefits of Filing a Claim

Filing a lawsuit won’t bring your loved one back. Nor will obtaining financial compensation for your losses necessarily ease the pain or trauma of experiencing a tragic accident or crime. However, asserting your rights can help you take back control. Regaining control of your life after a tragedy can be a profound first step in retaking your mental health.

An experienced personal injury attorney can also help connect you to resources you’ll need to recover from wrongful death damages california. As a trusted advisor, your lawyer can do more than just fight for your rights in court.

Get Good Legal Advice

It’s extremely important for you to check with an experienced injury lawyer to confirm when you should file your California wrongful death lawsuit. Obtaining good legal advice is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself and your family. It’s especially important as you prepare to file a wrongful death claim in California. If you don’t understand when, how, or who can file a claim, you can be permanently barred from seeking compensation. Investing in a good lawyer is like investing in your peace of mind. Let good legal advice be part of your recovery from trauma.


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