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Should I file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?

If you’ve recently lost someone you love, let us first extend our heartfelt sympathies. Losing someone you care about leaves an emotional scar and leads to a chapter of grieving. The grieving process is important and it shouldn’t be short-changed because you’re struggling with financial worry or the fact that someone else caused your loved one’s untimely demise.

The decision to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California has real consequences on your present and future. In this article we’ll take a closer look at the process we use to help our clients make an informed decision about choosing to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California.

Was a life lost due to someone else’s negligence?

If you feel that someone else is responsible for the death of someone you care about, you need to speak with a personal injury attorney. Every accident is unique. Glotzer & Leib have helped countless families in California pick up the pieces after an accident – ensuring the people responsible were held accountable. Our results speak for themselves.

Through the process of subrogation, you can designate someone else to help you pursue the at-fault party. This can free you and your family to focus on other important end-of-life plans and matters.

Filing a wrongful death claim after an automotive accident:

If your loved one was killed in a car or truck accident, you’ll need the help of an auto accident lawyer to understand your legal rights. Again, the specifics of the accident will be critical in determining whether or not to file a wrongful death claim.

According to the most recently released data, California lost 3,651 lives in car accidents in 2018. Many of these fatalities resulted from a motorcycle crash. Two-wheeled bikes offer very little protection to their riders in an accident – especially when they’re struck by a car or truck with a distracted driver behind the wheel.

The decision to sue someone isn’t something that should be taken lightly. An experienced personal injury firm will take the time to investigate the available facts surrounding your accident, before making a recommendation on how to proceed.

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California?

California’s personal injury laws state that the real party in interest may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased person. California’s Code of Civil Procedure states:

Every action must be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest, except as otherwise provided by statute.

So, who is the real party in interest? This is the individual or entity that has a legal claim or holds a title to the property previously belonging to the deceased party. In California, this is most often a domestic partner, spouse or child of the deceased individual.

There are situations where no living spouse or child survives the deceased. In these instances, anyone that has a legal claim to the property of the deceased individual may seek financial compensation in a wrongful death claim. This is most often the Executor of the estate.

Step-children, if they’re able to prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased individual, may also be able to pursue a wrongful death settlement in California.

Conventional Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In a conventional wrongful death lawsuit, family members of the deceased may seek compensation for:

  • Loss of income,
  • Replacement of services rendered by the deceased,
  • Loss of companionship,
  • Loss of emotional support, love and affection (Legally referred to as consortium.)

In a conventional wrongful death suit, the compensation is calculated based on the real losses experienced by the individual’s family. Punitive damages – financial penalties based on a bad action – cannot be pursued as part of a conventional wrongful death lawsuit in California. This severely limits the potential value of a California wrongful death claim.

Survival Action

If the individual did not immediately pass away as a result of their injuries, you may be able to pursue “survival action”. This is a specific type of wrongful death claim where someone else is allowed to pursue what the victim would have been entitled to if they had survived.

This opens the door to punitive damages, as well as other types of compensation. Again, it’s important to realize that each wrongful death claim is unique. The information laid out in this article may not apply to your case. 
If you or a family member is considering filing a wrongful death claim in California, we encourage you to schedule a free personal injury consultation with an experienced wrongful death lawyer from Glotzer & Leib, LLP.

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