If your loved one has died due to an act of negligence or malice, you are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Most folks don’t know where to begin or what they’ll need to prove, however.
The process is complicated not simply because of the complex emotions that are involved, but also because plaintiffs generally end up filing multiple causes of action against a single defendant.
Here, we’ll talk about everything you need to know to file a wrongful death lawsuit against an at-fault party in the State of California.
Under California law, the descendants of a victim of a wrongful death can file a lawsuit directly against an at-fault party. In addition, the victim’s estate can also file suit against the at-fault party. While these are considered two separate actions under the law, they can be litigated concurrently.
Survival actions are described by California Civil Code 377.30. Since survival actions are brought on behalf the victim’s estate on behalf of his or her heirs, they sue for a specific set of damages. Those damages include:
- Claims that are not related to the victim’s death but the victim had a right to sue for on or before the date of their death;
- And claims related to the victim’s death when the victim survives the injuries for a short period of time.
Unlike wrongful death lawsuits, survival actions can sue for punitive damages, which is significant. In the event that a defendant is guilty of either gross negligence or willful misconduct, the plaintiff may pursue punitive damages against the defendant. That money is paid directly to the estate and then distributed to their heirs.
Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death actions are a kind of personal injury lawsuit that brought on behalf of a victim’s family when the victim can no longer bring the action themselves. Types of deaths that support a wrongful death action include:
- Car or traffic accidents including drunk driving accidents,
- Murder or manslaughter,
- Medical malpractice,
- Elder abuse,
- Slip and fall accidents,
- Product liability (when a defective product causes a death),
- And dog bites or dog attacks.
These are considered grounds for a lawsuit. Except in cases of product liability or dog bites, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant acted negligently or maliciously. When a defendant acts maliciously or their negligence is so gross that it shows no concern for the rights and safety of others at all, the plaintiff can pursue punitive damages which punish the defendant for their actions.
In addition, surviving family members must show that they suffered personally from the deceased’s death.
Who Can Bring a Cause of Action in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
California Civil Code 377.30 defines who may bring a cause of action in wrongful death lawsuit. They include:
- Spouses or domestic partners,
- Children or grandchildren (when the deceased’s children are deceased),
- Minors who were financially dependant on the deceased’s income,
- Anyone who is considered an heir under California’s laws of intestate succession.
Call a California Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If a loved one has died due to the negligence or malice of another party, call the wrongful death attorneys at Beliz Law Firm at (562) 452-3772 or contact us online and we can begin building your case right away.