There is nothing worse than losing a loved one whose death was preventable and caused by someone else’s negligent behavior.

Though no monetary compensation can ever come close to making up for your loss, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help you find some sense of justice and provide valuable resources to help mitigate the financial hardship from the loss of your loved one. 

Unfortunately, not every unexpected death constitutes a wrongful death claim. To understand whether you have a valid case, it is important to know if your case satisfies all of the wrongful death elements in California.

The team of legal professionals at Silva Injury Law is dedicated to helping evaluate these types of claims and seek the compensation you deserve.

Here is an overview of what you need to know about California wrongful death claims. Get in touch with us today to arrange your complimentary case assessment.

Wrongful Death Elements in California

When a death occurs as a result of another person or party’s negligence, a wrongful death action may apply. Wrongful death is a claim filed in civil court seeking monetary compensation for the damages associated with the death of a loved one.

In some cases, depending on the circumstances of the death, criminal charges may also be pursued at the same time as the civil case. If applicable, a prosecuting attorney can seek justice in the form of incarceration, fees, and other punishments through the criminal justice system. 

In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, there are four distinct elements that must be satisfied. California wrongful death elements include the following:

  • Negligence. An individual or an entity acted wrongfully or negligently. Negligence is the failure to act in accordance with the standard of care or within a reasonable manner. Driving at excessive speed would be considered negligent behavior.
  • Death occurred. This is specified because if the person is severely injured but still living, a different legal cause of action would apply. 
  • Causation. The wrongful act caused the victim’s death or was a substantial factor. If the defendant had not acted negligently, the victim may still be alive. 
  • Actual damage. The victim’s family suffered substantial, compensable loss because of the death as opposed to just being upset. 

Your personal injury attorney can help you understand if your case has all the necessary wrongful death elements in California and the best strategy for seeking recovery. 

Examples of Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death cases are unique for every client and heavily dependent on the circumstances of the loved one’s death and the financial situation of eligible heirs.

It may be valuable to understand the type of cases that can constitute wrongful death, which may include:

  • Car accidents, 
  • Bicycle and pedestrian accidents, 
  • Defective products, 
  • Drunk driving accidents, 
  • Medical malpractice, 
  • Motorcycle accidents, 
  • Nursing home negligence, and 
  • Premises liability. 

This is not an exhaustive list. Any time negligent action by a third party results in a fatality, there is a possibility that a wrongful death claim could be brought.

The circumstance must satisfy the required wrongful death elements in California. 

How Do You Prove Wrongful Death in California?

Proving wrongful death in California may require an independent investigation into your claim to gather evidence and conduct general fact-finding. This is often done by your personal injury attorney to ensure all evidence is documented and preserved correctly.

In civil cases such as wrongful death lawsuits, the burden of proof lies with the person filing the claim and the case must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. This term means that the evidence must demonstrate that the accusation is more likely than not to be valid. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California?

Another thing to consider is whether you or another family member is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Every state has its own rules governing who is permitted to file this type of claim. 

Under California law, the people who can file a wrongful death claim include:

  • The decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner,
  • The decedent’s surviving children, and 
  • The decedent’s surviving grandchildren. 

Family structures are not all the same and there could be situations where the decedent has no survivors that fit into any of the above categories of eligible family members.

When this occurs, the law allows any person “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession” to file a wrongful death claim.

Other people who can file a wrongful death claim in California include: 

  • The decedent’s stepchildren,
  • The decedent’s parents, 
  • Siblings of the decedent who qualify as dependents,
  • Legal guardians of the decedent,
  • The decedent’s putative spouse, and
  • Children of the decedent’s putative spouse.

A putative spouse exists only in a unique circumstance where someone mistakenly believed they were lawfully married to the deceased. Though rare, this does happen.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you determine if you or someone else in your household is eligible to file a wrongful death claim in California. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death?

The California Code of Civil Procedure § 335.10 allows only two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. After this time passes, you may be barred from seeking legal recovery.

Though you certainly should take time to process your grief, it is also important to file your claim as soon as reasonably possible.

Over time it can be more difficult to obtain meaningful evidence to prove all wrongful death elements in California. Filing your claim well before the statute of limitations expires will help give you the best chance at a successful case. 

Contact a California Wrongful Death Attorney

Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without having to deal with the California legal system.

The experienced team at Silva Injury Law is committed to compassionate representation and takes a family-first approach to our legal strategies and client interactions.

Our goal is to ensure that your best interests are represented as we seek the meaningful compensation you deserve.

We have multiple locations throughout central California to make it easier for you to access our team of legal professionals from wherever you are. Contact us today to schedule your free case consultation.