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How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

There are various situations where it may be appropriate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Auto accidents, medical malpractice, bicycle crashes, pedestrian accidents, acts of violence, workplace accidents and deaths involving defective products are reasons why people can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California – if a person close to them dies from these scenarios.

Below, our Alameda wrongful death attorneys explain how a wrongful death lawsuit works in California.

Only Certain People Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

There are eligibility requirements for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California. One of those requirements is that you must be close or dependent on the deceased person (the decedent).

Spouses, children, domestic partners and in some cases parents and siblings of the decedent can file wrongful death lawsuits. Stepchildren can also file a lawsuit under the right circumstances.

There is a Statute of Limitations for a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A second requirement is that you must be within the statute of limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In many cases, there is a two-year timeframe to file your case. The amount of time you have is even shorter if your case is against a public (municipal or state) entity.

However, there are also cases where you can toll the statute of limitations. This means the statute of limitations would not begin right away. Our Alameda personal injury attorney can help you determine if it would be possible to toll the statute of limitations for your potential case.

The Defendant Was Negligent or Caused Intentional Harm

For a potential claim to have a chance of succeeding, you must be able to show the party who caused your loved one’s death was somehow negligent. You can also file a claim if you can demonstrate the other party intentionally killed your loved one. There are exceptions for cases involving dog bites, where it may be possible to recover compensation under California’s strict liability rule.

California’s rules on what constitutes negligence can be confusing for most people to understand. We encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys if you want to determine whether you could seek compensation from the other party.

Civil claims require a preponderance of evidence, which is a lower threshold than what is required in criminal courts. This means that you may be able to file a successful claim even if the other party did not receive a criminal conviction.

Damages in a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits have specific types of damages. You may be able to recover compensation for damages that include:

  • Medical bills. If your loved one incurred medical expenses before passing, then a settlement or verdict may cover your loved one’s medical bills.
  • Funeral expenses. You may be able to recover burial and other funeral expenses by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party.
  • Lost income. Was your loved one a source of income for the family? If so, then you can recover a loss of financial support and income. Additionally, it may be possible to recover your loved one’s future earnings through a verdict or settlement.
  • Loss of companionship. You may be able to seek compensation for loss of companionship, guidance or affection.
  • Pain and suffering. There are additional non-economic (pain and suffering damages) that you may recover by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. One of our wrongful death attorneys can explain how noneconomic damages could apply to your potential case.

Each case is different, meaning the amount and type of damages vary on a case-by-case basis. Our attorneys have experience with wrongful death cases and can explain your potential damages during a free consultation.

Contact Our Alameda Wrongful Death Lawyers

The Alameda wrongful death lawyers at Heinrich Law, PC can help you determine whether you have legal options to recover compensation after the loss of a loved one. Our law firm offers free consultations that can help explain your possible options. Schedule a free consultation with Heinrich Law, PC by calling (510) 944-0110 or by using our online case review form.