Has a Loved One Died in an Accident Due to Another's Negligence?
A cause of action for wrongful death would typically demand monetary damages to compensate the survivors or heirs including husband/wife or children for costs relating to potential income, funeral/burial expenses and loss of consortium which would be a claim that could be made by a spouse only.
The victim's death must be shown to have been caused by the negligence and wrongdoing of a third party. Certain circumstances do not give rise to such a cause of action. For example, the death of an unborn child or fetus, from a suicide or justifiable homicide is not legally actionable and does not give rise to a meritorious cause of action for wrongful death under California law.
Frequently Asked Questions about Potential Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death claims can result from accidents including slip and falls, car accidents, pedestrian accidents, trucking accidents, medical malpractice and more.
What is the Difference between a Wrongful Death Cause of Action and a "Survival" Cause of Action?
A "survivor" cause of action has its legal authority in the Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.30. In essence, only the victim's estate can bring a "survival" cause of action against a negligent party. The family or heirs do not have a direct cause of action against the negligent party or individual under this legal claim. The damages are different for both causes of action.
Punitive damages are not available for a wrongful death claim in California (with few exceptions- a felony homicide that resulted in a conviction). However, in a survival action, punitive damages are recoverable by the decedent's estate (the victim who died).
What Types of Actions Warrant a Wrongful Death Claim?
Negligence, gross negligence, recklessness by one party that causes or leads to the wrongful death of an individual can give rise to such a claim.
What is the Statute of Limitations or Legal Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Action in Court?
There are three timelines to be concerned with when it comes to a wrongful death cause of action which must be fully proven to be successful in court.
- The general rule and deadline to file such a cause of action are within two years of the injury or death, according to California Code of Civil Procedure 335.1.
- If a medical malpractice claim is being presented against a doctor or health care provider, the time is calculated three years from the date of injury or one year after the individual discovered or should have reasonably discovered the injury. This is evaluated legally according to the "reasonable person" standard.
- If the claim is being filed against the government, the time is shortened and must be timely filed within six months of the injury or death.
Failure to comply with the statute of limitations can waive your claim. This is why time is of the essence. When speaking with an attorney, make sure you discuss the timeline and sequence of events leading up to the wrongful death of a loved one.