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Wrongful Death

Flowers When a person is killed in an accident caused by the negligence of another person or entity, his or her family members may file a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death lawsuits may also be filed when the person’s death was caused by criminal conduct of others such as murder, drunk driving or as a result of the commission of another crime. It is important for you to understand what a wrongful death claim is in California, who may file a case, how the value of the claim is determined and the statute of limitations for filing.

What is a California Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim in California is a lawsuit that is filed by the family members or loved ones of a person who is killed as a result of another’s negligence or wrongful act. The claims are filed against the person, persons or entity that are believed to have caused the death. Through a wrongful death claim, families may be able to recover a number of different types of damages, depending on the facts of their loved one’s case. Damages may include reasonable amounts for funeral and burial expenses, any medical expenses that were incurred before the loved one succumbed to his or her injuries, the person’s lost future income, loss of consortium, any pain and suffering the person may have received, lost rights of inheritance and others.

Who is Entitled to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim Under California Law?

California law establishes who may file a wrongful death claim in the state. In order to pursue a claim, the person or people must be one of the following:

  • Spouse, children, domestic partner or children of deceased children
  • If no one from the first category of people are alive, then the people who would stand to inherit by intestate succession may file
  • Those who were dependent on the deceased person
  • Stepchildren, a putative spouse or children of a putative spouse
  • Dependent minors who lived with the deceased person for more than 180 days prior to the death
Determining the Value of a California Wrongful Death Claim

In some cases, the value of a wrongful death claim will be limited by the insurance policy limits of the defendants or the assets of the responsible parties. Experienced Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers may work to maximize the recovery amount for their clients. They do this by investigating all of the angles of a case and researching all potential sources of recovery. Our attorneys analyze the accident reports, video footage from traffic cameras, physical evidence, witness statements and any other information that is needed to build the strongest case. This helps to secure settlements that may be significantly higher than the insurance companies might otherwise offer.

Examples of Liability in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A negligent driver who caused an accident in which your loved one died may only have minimum liability insurance in California. The minimums for liability are $15,000 per person suffering bodily injury or death or a total of $30,000. This amount simply is not enough to compensate families for their loved ones’ losses. In those types of cases, our wrongful death attorneys analyze the evidence in order to determine if other viable defendants should also be named. If the negligent driver was working at the time, his or her employer may be liable. Another example may occur if the vehicle’s owner negligently entrusted his or her car to a driver that he or she knew or should have known was an incompetent driver.

In cases in which a vehicle defect contributed to the accident, the car’s manufacturer or the manufacturer of a defective part may hold some financial liability for the loss. If the accident happened because of poorly maintained, designed or constructed roads, a county, municipality or the state may also be named as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit.

How We Might Be Able to Help?

Our wrongful death attorneys at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC look at additional factors that might also impact the values of wrongful death cases. In order to determine the appropriate amount of damages, the decedent’s life expectancy has to be established. Calculating the life expectancy involves taking into account his or her occupation, medical history, age, lifestyle and other factors. An attorney may also work to prove how much financial support was lost by the loved ones who survived. In order to determine this, the attorney will analyze the victim’s anticipated future earnings, occupation and other facts that are relevant to determining the income that was lost.

When the person who died was a child or a retiree, proving work-related losses may be highly complex, necessitating the help of an experienced lawyer.

In cases in which several people are seeking to recover compensation, it may be necessary to establish a probate estate. In this type of situation, the wrongful death lawsuit will be brought in the name of the estate rather than in the names of the individuals.

Statute of Limitations

Like other civil cases in California, plaintiffs in wrongful death actions must file their claims within a set time period. A majority of wrongful death cases must be filed no later than two years after the injury or death. If the person died as a result of medical malpractice, the claim must be filed within three years from the injury incident or within one year of when the injury was discovered or should reasonably have been discovered. Finally, if the person’s death resulted from a government tort, then the claim must be filed with the appropriate agency within six months.

Schedule a Free Consultation

If your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligent or intentional actions, you may need to get experienced legal help. Our Los Angeles wrongful death lawyers at the Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC, APC are dedicated to helping our clients to obtain justice and fair compensation. Call us at 310-592-0445 today to schedule a free consultation.

Client Reviews
I have known Steven for some time now and when his services were required he jumped in and took control of my cases. I had two and they were handled with the utmost professionalism and courtesy. He went the extra mile regardless of the bumps in the road. I can not see me using any other attorney and I would recommend him to any of my family and friends. Josie A.
Steven was vital during our most trying time. He was referred by a friend after an accident that involved a family member. While he was critical and lying in the hospital, Steven was kind, patient and knowledgeable about what we were going through. Following our loss, Steven became a tough and aggressive negotiator and made sure that we receive a huge compensation. I would refer Steven in fact, this happened 2 years ago and I still speak highly of his service. Cheryl S.
Mr. Sweat is a pitbull in the courtroom as well as settlement negotiations - You can't have a better equipped attorney in your corner! It is a pleasure working as colleagues together on numerous cases. He can get the job done. Jonathan K.
Because of Steven Sweat, my medical support was taken care of. Plus, I had more money to spare for my other bills. Steven is not only an excellent personal injury lawyer, providing the best legal advice, but also a professional lawyer who goes beyond his call of duty just to help his clients! He stood up for me and helped me get through the process. I would definitely recommend. I couldn't think of any better lawyer than him. MiraJane C.
I must tell anyone, if you need a great attorney, Steve sweat is the guy! I had an awful car accident and had no idea where to turn. He had so much to deal with because my accident was a 4 car pile up. Not to mention all the other cars were behind me and they were not wanting to settle in any way! He never stopped working for me and had my best interest at heart! Audra W.
I believe I made the best choice with Steven M Sweat, Personal Injury. I was very reluctant to go forward with my personal injury claim. I had a valid claim and I needed a professional attorney to handle it. I felt so much better when I let Steven take my case. His team did everything right and I am very satisfied. Stia P.
I have to say that Steve has been exemplary! I met Steve at a point with my case that I was ready to give up. He took the time and dealt with all of my concerns. Most importantly, he was present and listened to what I was going through. He was able to turn things around, put me and my case on the right track! The results were better that expected! Highly recommend!! Cody A.