Understanding Wrongful Death Laws in California
In California, when someone has died due to a wrongful act committed by someone else, their family can recover damages with the use of the wrongful death laws outlined in The Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 – 377.62.
While not limited to these specific damages, some recoverable damages include:
- Expenses from funerals and burials
- Income that would have been earned by the deceased
- Support and companionship loss in the form of compensation
California’s wrongful death laws allow for action on a loss of consortium, which is similar to these cases. When a wrongful act takes the life of a person, their registered domestic partner or spouse can experience of a loss of intimacy and companionship, which is where the law of consortium can apply.
Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 usually combines wrongful death suits with survival cause of action in California. When a wrongful act occurs, rather than family of the victim seeking compensation for loss, the estate of the victim seeks compensation in survival causes of action
In California wrongful death suits, punitive damages cannot be recovered. Survival cause of actions are the only way that punitive damages can be recovered from the party responsible for the wrongful death. A wrongful death attorney in California can help you recover these damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in California?
Personal representatives and these family members are allowed to make a wrongful death suit under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The domestic partner of the deceased
- Grandchildren when children of the deceased are deceased as well
- Stepchildren and other minors who received 50% or more of their financial support from the deceased
- According to intestate succession laws in California, those are entitled to the property of the deceased
When a Victim Dies, When Can a Wrongdoer Be Held Responsible?
Intentional wrongful acts, negligence, recklessness, and gross negligence can all be used by survivors in California to make wrongful death claims.
A person’s death can be attributed to the following wrongful acts, along with others:
- Auto accidents, which includes cases of driving under the influence
- Pedestrian “knock-downs”
- Accidents from slips and falls
- Battery and assault
- Manslaughter or murder
- Neglect or abuse of elders
- Neglect or abuse of children
- Medical malpractice
California also has strict liability cases, where lawsuits can be placed by heirs even in situations where there was no negligence on behalf of the defendant. These cases usually center around deaths from defective products, mauling, or dog bites.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
When a person dies, their heirs no longer receive support, and the value of that support can be received in the form of compensation when wrongful death damages are recovered. Non-economic and economic losses can be used as the basis for damage compensation. More details about these damages are included here.
The shorter of the following will be the period for recoverable damages:
- The life expectancy of the deceased when the wrongful act occurred
- The plaintiff’s life expectancy when the wrongful act occurred
Certain factors, such as lifestyle, health, and occupation are taken into account for determining the life expectancy, which the jury will have to do.
In the state of California, these are some of the things that can count as economic damages:
- Over the lifetime of the deceased, any financial support they would have given to the family
- Benefits and gifts that the deceased would have given to the heirs
- Expenses used for burials and funerals
- Values on household services that would have been provided by the deceased
The following are some of the losses that can be compensated for under non-economic damages in a wrongful death case:
- Companionship and society
- Moral support
- Guidance and training
- Sexual relations
Any reasonable amount of non-economic damages can be awarded by a jury based on the evidence they’re given. This is because California doesn’t have a fixed standard when it comes to handling wrongful death cases where non-economic damages are sought. Suffering, sorrow, pain, and grief due to the death of a loved one do not result in non-economic damages for heirs.
Can Punitive Damages Be Received By Heirs?
California wrongful death laws state that for wrongful death cases, punitive damages normally can’t be received by heirs. There is an exception, which involves the defendant being convicted of a felony homicide which resulted in the death of the deceased. The estate of the decedent can use a survival action to seek punitive damages.
What Makes Survival Actions Different from Other Lawsuits?
The California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 will sometimes blend survival action with wrongful death lawsuits. The surviving family of a deceased individual receives loss compensation when a wrongful death lawsuit is filed, but in the case of a survival action, on the estate of the deceased’s behalf, the heirs can sue.
There are two kinds of losses that the deceased’s estate can be compensated for through survival actions:
- Claims that the deceased could sue for when they died, but having no relation to the death itself
- Claims for death related injuries, given that there was a period of survival, after sustaining injuries, for some time.
There is a lot of complexity involving survival actions. But the ability to obtain punitive damages is the main thing that separates survival action from other lawsuits. If the same wrongful act causes both of these two actions, there is a good chance that they will be tried together.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Case?
A period of two years is used for the statute of limitations for survival actions and wrongful deaths in California. Starting from the day the deceased died, two years is given to sue any responsible parties for a wrongful death.
The start of the two-year limit is a little different for survival actions, beginning at the later of:
- The injury date
- Six months from the death of the deceased
When Dealing with a Wrongful Death Laws in Los Angeles, CA, Contact an Attorney With the Right Experience
You can file a wrongful death suit when an accident causes your loved ones to die. This death may result in damages for you. Two years is all you have to file in the event of a wrongful death. If you’re in Los Angeles, you need to get in touch with a local personal injury attorney at McDonald Worley as soon as possible. You can schedule a consultation when you call us at (213) 263-6299. There’s no charge for the consultation and you won’t pay anything unless your has been settled.