Wrongful death cases are heart-wrenching for everyone involved. A person’s life has been taken as a result of the intentional, reckless, or negligent conduct of a wrongdoer. Families are stunned and left without the support, guidance, and companionship of the deceased.
With outstanding medical, funeral, and burial bills being directed to them, survivors are often financially devastated, too. They can’t just file a claim with the insurer of the person or legal entity that caused their loved one’s death either. A lawsuit must be filed in accordance with California’s wrongful death laws, and it’s likely that an estate must be opened. Wrongful death cases are complicated legal endeavors that may or may not end up in the courtroom.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in California?
Wrongful death cases in California are civil lawsuits for damages that are brought by the surviving family pursuant to section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure. This section details who is permitted to bring a wrongful death case.
In most cases, it’s a surviving spouse, a registered domestic partner, and/or a child of the deceased person. They’re seeking damages for the losses suffered by the deceased person’s family members and not to the deceased himself or herself. Here are just some of the damages that are recoverable in a California wrongful death case:
- The financial support that the decedent provided the family during his or her lifetime.
- Lost earnings that he or she would have received over a lifetime.
- Loss of his or her comfort, care, guidance, and companionship.
- Funeral and burial costs.
Survival Counts in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Assuming that the decedent survived the accident for even just a short while, a survival action can be brought with the wrongful death case. Note, however, this action is brought by the estate of the decedent as a second count of the wrongful death case.
The survival count contemplates damages suffered by the decedent before he or she passed away. Those might include damages like the emergency room, hospital and surgical bills, and pain and suffering. Any damages awarded pursuant to a survival action are payable to the decedent’s estate. If the person died without a will, a court will appoint an administrator.
Do California Wrongful Death Lawsuits Go to Court?
The fact that a decedent’s family must file a wrongful death lawsuit and open an estate in court doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll ever see the inside of a courtroom in connection with the decedent’s death. Often, these cases are settled with the help of a mediator outside of the courtroom.
Contact a Hanford Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you’re a family member or the administrator of an individual who died as a result of the act or failure to act of another person or legal entity, contact our offices as soon as possible for a free consultation and case review.