Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit: What You Need to Know
It is incredibly painful to experience the unexpected death of a loved one. Whether through medical malpractice, or other means, if you have suffered through the sudden death of someone dear to you, you know that it is a time of overwhelming shock and grief. You’ll have to shoulder the burden of unforeseen expenses associated with the funeral, all while facing the reality that nothing will replace the loss of the person you loved. While no amount of compensation can bring back your loved one, knowing how to file a wrongful death lawsuit can alleviate the financial burden and potentially provide care for the future.
Our personal injury attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot can assist you in pursuing justice for your loved one by filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California. Read on to find out how to file a claim and what else you need to know about wrongful death cases.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is a death caused by another person’s intentional misconduct or negligence. Below are a few common examples of cases where a wrongful death claim may be filed:
- Medical malpractice: A wrongful death in medical malpractice is also known as medical negligence. For example, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim against a doctor or licensed health professional that failed to diagnose the patient’s condition and failed to treat the condition properly.
- Car accident: If a person suffers fatal injuries in a car accident caused by a reckless driver, their surviving loved ones may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent driver.
- Work-related incidents: Fatal accidents that happen at work typically constitute a worker’s compensation claim, but the person’s survivors may also bring a claim against a negligent third party, like a driver or equipment manufacturer.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California
Wrongful death lawsuits are often complex and involve a statute of limitations of two years. In California, survivors are entitled to compensation for financial and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. The deadline for filing starts from the date when the victim died.
However, unlike other personal injury cases, supporting evidence will not be enough for this kind of lawsuit. You’ll need to prepare expert testimony to strengthen the arguments of your case. For instance, the opinion of a physician knowledgeable in lawful medical procedures is necessary to prove fatality due to medical malpractice.
You also want a top Los Angeles wrongful death attorney who can handle it all. Our law firm will provide you with dedicated counsel that will listen to you and answer all your questions while aggressively fighting on your behalf.
A qualified wrongful death attorney can walk you through the process of what qualifies as wrongful death and, therefore, determine what may be eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit. They will be able to assist with filing the initial paperwork.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The state only allows the designated survivors or a personal representative of the deceased estate to sue the at-fault party. For accident survivors, it starts with an assigned hierarchy, and the first priority is usually the surviving spouse and children.
The eligibility of persons who can file a wrongful death suit in California is straightforward as long as the lawsuit is filed within the statute of limitations. Any of the surviving family members can file individually or jointly.
Primarily, there are three main categories of individuals who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, according to the California civil statute on wrongful death claims. If you belong to one of these classifications, you most likely were closest to the victim.
Surviving Family Members
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse
- The deceased person’s surviving domestic partner – this requires that the person is a registered domestic partner
- The deceased person’s surviving children and grandchildren
Any of these surviving family members can file individually or jointly. A good personal injury lawyer will advise your family on how best to file. Sometimes, it is best to file on behalf of the estate rather than as an individual. Make sure to discuss this with an attorney if you decide to file a wrongful death claim.
Additional Family Members
If none of these individuals exist, there are two remaining categories of possible claimants. The first group is people related directly to the deceased in order of claim. They are eligible if they would be inheriting property from the deceased individual.
- Parents of the deceased
- Brothers and sisters of the deceased
- Children of deceased brothers and sisters
- Grandparents of the deceased
- Grandparents’ lineal descendants
Finally, the second group of possible claimants would be:
- A putative spouse (according to California legal code, this refers to “the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid”)
- Children of the putative spouse
- Stepchildren of the deceased
To qualify to place a wrongful death claim, the above family members would need to prove that they were financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death.
If none of these surviving family members exist, the final class of claimant, according to California law, is a minor who can prove that they “resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support.”
Wrongful Death Claim: Survival Action vs. Consortium Claim
A survival action would consider the loss of wages before the decedent’s death if they did not die immediately. A consortium claim is a derivative of a wrongful death claim, awarded in favor of the surviving spouse, not to the deceased’s estate. These may include the loss of companionship, sexual relations, and affection from the deceased spouse.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The settlement money is paid to the surviving spouse, children, parents, and estate. Meanwhile, if the deceased left a last will or testament, the person who is to inherit the deceased assets may participate in the claim or proceeds of the case.
The second group of possible claimants would be:
- A putative spouse (the surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was valid)
- Children of the putative spouse
- Stepchildren of the deceased
To qualify for a wrongful death claim, the above family members would need to prove that they were financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death.
Suppose none of these surviving family members exist. In that case, according to California law, the final class of claimant is a minor who can prove that they resided for the previous 180 days in the decedent’s household and was dependent on the decedent for one-half or more of the minor’s support.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable?
In California, wrongful death settlements are not taxable. However, if you are awarded punitive damages, it may be subject to tax. Below are the types of economic damages that may be awarded to you:
- The cost of reasonable and necessary care
- Funeral expenses
- Other costs associated with the death
- Lost future earnings
Aside from economic damages, you are also entitled to receive non-economic damages, including the following:
- Physical pain and suffering which can be claimed if the loved one did not die immediately
- Destruction of the capacity to enjoy life’s activities involving family, work, sports, and recreation
- The loss of parental care or sexual relations for the victim’s spouse or partner
If a settlement cannot be reached, your personal injury lawyer will present your case at trial. When a case goes to trial, you want a lawyer who will doggedly and persuasively argue your case.
Why Choose Adamson Ahdoot to Represent You
If someone you love has died due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you have our deepest condolences. We ensure that our client’s questions are always addressed, and their wrongful cases are handled promptly.
We value compassion and approachability. When a loved one passes, it is always a loss. However, when that death results from someone else’s irresponsibility or negligence, it is even more tragic.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Adamson Ahdoot has offices throughout California to best serve you. During such a difficult time, rest assured that your case is in the hands of a competent and skilled wrongful death attorney.
Seek Legal Representation From a Personal Injury Lawyer
Our Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys can help you hold the individual responsible for a wrongful death accountable. At Adamson Ahdoot, we can help pursue your personal injury claim to receive the compensation you and your family deserve.
We will stand by you every step of the way and help you navigate the complex legal process. While money cannot replace your loved one, it can mitigate the high expense of sudden death. Compensation can help with debt, funeral expenses, and outstanding medical bills.
At Adamson Ahdoot, we are small enough to provide personal, one-on-one attention yet large enough to offer you a dedicated staff that can handle any personal injury case. We will stand by you and fight for justice for you and your loved one. Furthermore, we work based on contingency. So, the only time that you will pay us is if we win on your behalf.
Call us at (800) 310-1606 today to schedule your free consultation with a premier injury attorney in English or Spanish.