What Constitutes Wrongful Death in California?Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

Under California tort law, a death is considered wrongful if it occurred as the result of another party’s negligence or intentional misconduct. When this is the case, the deceased’s surviving loved ones may take action against those who are deemed responsible for the passing. 

To mitigate frivolous suits, however, only certain relatives and dependents are actually entitled to bring the claim. That means if you recently lost a family member in some kind of preventable accident, whether you can personally file a wrongful death suit will depend on your relationship with the victim.

Pursuant to Section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, the following parties may take action following a wrongful death: 

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse or domestic partner at the time of passing; 
  • The deceased’s surviving children; 
  • Eligible beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate; 
  • Minors who resided with the deceased for 180 days or more and relied on him or her for at least half of their financial support; or 
  • The personal representative of the deceased’s estate.

If you’re unsure who in your family should proceed with the claim, consult a wrongful death attorney. A seasoned professional will review the situation to determine which relative should bring the case so it has the best chance of success.   


What Kinds of Damages Can My Family Seek by Filing a Wrongful Death Claim?

Since every wrongful death is unique, so too is every payout that results from the associated claim. The kinds of damages that end up being recoverable—and their total value—vary immensely from case to case.

In other words, there’s no standard formula for calculating how much any given claim might be worth. There are, however, some common damages that almost every family is able to recover. Examples include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses; 
  • Medical bills incurred while treating the deceased’s final injury or illness; 
  • Lost income and benefits; 
  • Loss of anticipated inheritances; 
  • Loss of household services; and 
  • Loss of love, affection, comfort, companionship, society and support.

If you’re wondering whether taking action could be worthwhile, a wrongful death lawyer can evaluate the facts of the case and let you know what kinds of damages you should be able to seek. Your attorney will also review the circumstances surrounding the passing to see if you might be entitled to a punitive award.

Unlike compensatory damages, which encompass everything listed above, punitive damages don’t actually reimburse claimants for their losses. Instead, they aim to punish liable parties who acted with malice, oppression, or fraud (and to deter such behavior in the future).


Call 1-800-GO-HARRIS to Discuss Your Case with a California Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you think your loved one’s passing could have been prevented, turn to Harris Personal Injury Lawyers. Our compassionate team will evaluate the circumstances surrounding the death to determine if your family has grounds for a claim.

We’ve represented more than 5,000 victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Call 1-800-GO-HARRIS or fill out our Contact Form to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death attorney in California. 

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