Is Wrongful Death Negligence?

California wrongful death claims are a special form of a lawsuit against a party whose negligent or intentional conduct resulted in a fatality. By State statute, only certain persons are entitled to file wrongful death lawsuits and those parties can recover specific damages on account of that fatality. 

For more than 25 years, the wrongful death lawyers at Ellis Injury Law have represented the survivors of accident victims in California wrongful death lawsuits. We pursue wrongful death claims that arise from motor vehicle accidents, accidental drownings, homicides, electrocutions, workplace injuries, slip and fall mishaps, and other tragic events.    

Who can file a California wrongful death claim? 

The California statute that establishes wrongful death claims limits the parties that can file them to the accident victim’s surviving spouse or domestic partner and the victim’s surviving children. If the victim was not married or in a partnership and did not have children, then a person that would be entitled to inherit the victim’s property would also have the opportunity to file a wrongful death claim. 

Where certain parties were dependent on the accident victim for financial support, a Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer can also file claims on behalf of the accident victim’s common-law spouse, stepchildren, or parents.  

What damages are recoverable on account of a wrongful death? 

The kinds of damages that may be recovered in a successful wrongful death claim will be a function of whether the victim’s estate or surviving family members are seeking compensation for losses. The deceased party’s estate can claim damages for expenses associated with funerals or interment, medical bills, and expenses that were incurred as a result of the fatal accident or event, and lost present and prospective earnings. Family members can seek reimbursement for anticipated financial and emotional support and the value of the victim’s services for the family.  A wrongful death attorney will analyze the facts of each specific case to determine the total damages that may be recoverable with a wrongful death claim.   

Can a deceased party’s estate file wrongful death claim and a negligence action? 

If the victim did not die immediately as a result of an accident or intentional act but survived for a time before succumbing to injuries, his or her estate can file a survival cause of action to recover the damages that the victim suffered before death. Those damages include reimbursement for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, and property losses, but not for pain and suffering. Where the facts of the case demonstrate egregious or willful conduct by the party that caused the victim’s death, the victim’s estate may also be able to recover punitive damages through a survival action. 

Are wrongful death claims different from criminal charges? 

Defendants that are indicted on criminal homicide charges can also face wrongful death claims in a separate civil lawsuit. The burden of proof for criminal cases is significantly higher than it is in civil cases. Even if the State is unable to prove that a defendant is guilty of criminal homicide, a deceased victim’s survivors can still prove that the defendant is liable for damages in a civil wrongful death lawsuit. 

When should a victim’s family or estate file a wrongful death claim? 

California law requires a deceased party’s family or estate to file a wrongful death claim no later than two years after the date on which the victim died. Filing the case well before this two-year deadline will often improve the chances of recovering the largest available wrongful death damages award. In view of this, the victim’s family should contact an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer as soon as is possible after the victim’s death, and even before a representative is assigned to the victim’s estate in probate.   

Contact the personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law in Los Angeles to file a wrongful death claim    

The personal injury lawyers at Ellis Injury Law offer complimentary consultations to family members of parties that have suffered wrongful death as a result of someone else’s negligence or intentional act. We understand the pain and dislocation that families experience when their loved one is suddenly and violently taken from their lives.  

Please see our website or call us as soon as you can after your loved one has died to recover the full measure of damages that you are entitled to receive from the party that is responsible for your losses.