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Quick guide to filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California

If one of your family members was killed by a negligent driver, you are likely feeling an overwhelming sense of grief and anger. You might be wondering how you can make sense of this situation. While nothing will make up for the loss of a loved one, financial compensation is possible for surviving family members.

According to the California wrongful death statute, there are certain people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and receive damages.

Who can file

Only specific individuals may file a lawsuit for wrongful death in California. The following surviving loved ones may pursue a claim:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Domestic partner
  • Surviving children

If there are no surviving people in the line of descent, then surviving parents or siblings may be able to file a claim. Stepchildren, parents and a putative spouse, a person who cohabitated with your loved one with the intent of marrying, can sometimes bring a claim if they are able to prove financial dependence on the deceased person.

Damages available

You can receive various personal injury damages from a wrongful death claim. The specific damages depend on the details of your case but are generally split between compensation for the estate and surviving family members. Estate damages may include medical bills, funeral expenses and lost income. Surviving family members might receive compensation for losing financial support; the value of household services; and loss of love, affection, guidance and companionship.

Statute of limitations

If you are considering filing a wrongful death claim, you have to do it within two years of the fatal collision according to California law. It is crucial to file your claim with the civil court within this statute of limitations. If you do not file your case within two years, you may lose your chance for compensation. For help filing your claim, be sure to consult a personal injury attorney.

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