In California, a claim for a wrongful death arises when the negligent act of one results in the death of another. In this situation, the surviving family members can bring a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for the incident. In essence, a wrongful death claim is the personal injury claim the decedent cannot institute for itself.
As trial lawyers experienced in wrongful death claims in Los Angeles, the legal professionals at The Law Offices of Ramtin Sadighim want the public to know and understand the premise of such a claim.
The purpose of this blog is to explain the eligibility of those who can institute a wrongful death claim, to set out the damages that may be awarded and the time limit within which such a claim must be brought.
A wrongful death claim arises from the negligent act of one, whether by accident or intent, that causes the death of another from an accident, medical malpractice or a crime. As with personal injury claims, claims for wrongful death are filed in civil court where liability is expressed in terms of financial compensation.
Although a wrongful death claim may derive from a crime, the claim is very different from a homicide case. A homicide case is a criminal action filed in criminal court where the imposed punishment can be prison, jail, or probation.
A wrongful death claim in civil court is separate and apart from a criminal case. A case in civil court cannot impose jail or prison time, nor can a criminal court impose the reward of financial compensation to the survivors.
The results of one case cannot affect the other. It is entirely possible, and it often happens, that the person responsible for the incident can be found innocent in the criminal case but ordered to pay substantial financial damages in the civil case.
The burden of proof placed upon the injured party to prove the claim is much lower in civil court.
Eligibility to File a Wrongful Death Claim
California’s wrongful death statute allows for the filing of a claim by:
- the surviving spouse or domestic partner
- the surviving children
- the surviving grandchildren
If there is no surviving person in the decedent’s direct line of descent, then a wrongful death claim can be brought by any person entitled to the decedent’s property by virtue of a will or by intestate succession. There are catch-all categories for others eligible to file a claim, but the person would need to prove financial dependence on the decedent.
The categories or damages awarded in a wrongful death claim are the same as a personal injury claim: economic and non-economic. The economic damages are the expenses paid out-of-pocket for any medical bills, vehicle repair, loss of financial support and a reasonable value of household services or benefits the survivors would have expected had the decedent lived.
The motivation behind the recovery of economic damages is to make the surviving family members whole, in a financial way, as though the incident had not occurred.
The non-economic damages are the value assessed to the intangible losses like pain and suffering, the loss of love and companionship, and the benefit of guidance. The value awarded to non-economic damages is a multiple of the economic damages award.
The value of the economic damages is the lowest value placed upon the claim. The total amount of the claim is the combination of the values given to the economic and the non-economic awards.
Except for medical malpractice cases, there is no universal cap on damages awarded in a wrongful death claim.
The Statute of Limitations
In California, a wrongful death claim must be filed in civil court within two years of the decedent’s death, not the date of the incident. If a claim is not brought within the appropriate time period, then it is very likely that the right to file will be forever barred.
If You Believe You are Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim? Contact an experienced Los Angeles Wrongful Death Lawyer at The Law Offices of Ramtin Sadighim Today
If you have lost a loved one to a serious incident, please take action and contact The Law Offices of Ramtin Sadighim at 888.999.8744. Our legal team is ready and able to help guide you through the process and work on your behalf to ensure maximum financial compensation for your harm and loss. Our experienced team of solutions-focused professionals understand the hardships such an incident can cause, and we are here to help. For further information or to schedule a consultation, please contact The Law Offices of Ramtin Sadighim at 888.999.8744 or visit www.CaliAccidentAttorney.com to learn more.