When you lose a loved one unexpectedly due to an accident or negligent action, it can take a significant toll on your emotional and financial wellbeing. Wrongful death law in California recognizes this and allows survivors to pursue compensation from the responsible party in the form of a wrongful death claim. Here is everything you need to know about California wrongful death law and how our injury lawyers can help.

What Is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death is any fatal injury sustained by an individual due to the negligent actions of another person. Typically, wrongful deaths occur under the care of a doctor. However, a wrongful death claim may apply to a variety of cases, including car accidents, dog bites, and more. Surviving family members of the deceased usually incur financial losses due to the death, and these expenses can be recovered through a wrongful death claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Under CCP § 377.60, all possible heirs may file a wrongful death claim, including the spouse, domestic partner, or children of the deceased. However, California law only allows one wrongful death claim to be brought against the responsible person. This means that all heirs must join the same lawsuit. The court bars any heir that doesn’t join the lawsuit from receiving any portion of the judgment.

To avoid unfairness, the heirs filing the wrongful death suit must also include any known heirs in their claim. If the original claimant omits any of the known heirs of the deceased, they may be held responsible. 

Statute of Limitations Under California Wrongful Death Law

The statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim in California has three deadlines depending on the circumstances of the case. For most cases, including car accidents or premises liability, the lawsuit must be filed within two years of injury or death. 

For medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations differs. According to CCP § 340.5, any action against a health care provider for their negligence must be filed within three years from the date of the injury or one year after the patient discovers the injury, whichever comes first. 

If a government entity or employee causes the wrongful death, you must first file a claim with the government agency before pursuing a lawsuit. Under the California Tort Claims Act, the claimant must file a claim within six months of the incident. Afterward, the government has 45 days to conduct its investigation and attempt to settle the claim. If the government rejects your claim or does not take any action, you may file a lawsuit. 

The amount of time you have to file depends on whether you received a “right to sue” letter from the government entity. If you receive a letter, you have six months from the postmark or delivery of the letter to bring a lawsuit. However, if the government doesn’t respond to your initial claim within 45 days, you have two years from the date of the injury to sue.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys in California Today

Losing a loved one is hard, but you don’t have to go through it alone. At Silva Injury Law, Inc. we advocate for families who have lost a loved one due to another person’s negligence. Using our knowledge of California wrongful death law, we manage all the aspects of the case and fight for your family’s needs. We are here for you every step of the way. To schedule a consultation, call one of our offices or contact us online.