The loss of a loved one is something every family dreads. If that loss is caused by the negligence of another, it is even harder to bear. California law is clear that when the death of a loved one is caused by the negligence of another, a wrongful death lawsuit can be a great help to the remaining members of the family. The next question that should be asked is what a “wrongful Death” is and who is entitled to file a lawsuit?
In California Wrongful death is a cause of action for those family members left behind when someone is a victim of negligence and it causes their death. Family members may recover damages by bringing a lawsuit against the party who negligently caused the death of the loved one and “family members” include: the surviving spouse or the children of the victim. It should be mentioned that in California a wrongful death action may also be brought by a domestic partner even though this is not the case in every state. Additionally, certain dependents of the victim may have a right to bring suit provided that they fit within the framework of California Law.
What can family members reasonably recover? Wrongful death lawsuits cover both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses may include: past and future loss of financial support provided by the victim, funeral and burial expenses and the value of lost household services should the family member contribute to the family dynamic in that way. Non-economic damages include: loss of a loved one’s companionship, comfort, affection, guidance, mentoring and society. These losses are sometimes referred to as losses of consortium and/or losses of parental guidance. There is no fixed standard for deciding the amount of non-economic damages as it is impossible to put a value on the emotional loss a family experiences when a loved one is gone.
Many people confuse a lawsuit for wrongful death with a lawsuit for what is called survivorship. Survivorship actions provide a cause of action in negligence which survives the death of the family member. While wrongful death provides compensation for the effects of the victim’s death, survivorship helps to compensate the family for the damages which occurred before the untimely death. California Law describes these damages as: “the loss or damage that the decedent sustained or incurred before death, including any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover had the decedent lived, and do not include damages for pain, suffering, or disfigurement.” Survivorship can be easily understood as the basic negligence lawsuit the victim would have had, if they had not died.
As with all personal injury claims in California there are time limits to file and you need to be aware of those limits. Too often when we meet with someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one it is too late to file or, in legal terms “The statute of limitations has expired”. If you miss the deadline you are not allowed to sue in most cases.
If you have questions about wrongful death or any other area of the law that pertains to injury your first call should be to the Law Offices of Guenard & Bozarth. An experienced attorney will speak with you regarding your case for free and provide the initial direction you need. Our attorneys can be reached at 888-809-1075 or at We Can Help.