A wrongful death claim arises when one individual dies as the result of the wrongful, reckless, or negligent act of another person or entity. It is considered a civil lawsuit that is brought to court directly by the surviving members of the deceased individual or by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
The following are the individuals eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California:
- The surviving spouse
- The domestic partner
- The surviving children
- Anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession (e.g. the surviving parents or siblings), if there is no surviving individual in the deceased person’s line of descent
- Putative spouse and children
There are a variety of personal injury damages which are available in a wrongful death claim in California. Damages are often determined according to whether they compensate the estate for losses related to the death or the surviving family members for their personal losses they sustained due to the death.
Losses are typically attributed to the estate include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical and hospital expenses for the deceased individual’s injury or illness
- Lost wages, which includes potential income the deceased person would reasonably have been expected to earn in the future if he or she had lived
Losses which are often attributed to the surviving family members include:
- Loss of expected financial support
- Loss of consortium, love, and moral support
- The value of household services
Remember, California law requires a wrongful death claim to be filed within two years of the date of the person’s death.