San Diego Wrongful Death Lawyer
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In the state of California, only certain people can file a wrongful death lawsuit for their family member or loved one. Those guidelines can be found in § 377.60-377.62 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
The codes state that any of the following individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Surviving spouse or domestic partner
- The decedent's children
If there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or children, the following parties may file a claim:
- Other dependents of the decedent
- Putative spouse
- Children of the putative spouse
While multiple parties have the right to file a wrongful death claim, only one lawsuit per wrongful death is allowed. So, for example, a surviving spouse and a surviving stepchild cannot file separate actions.
If you've recently lost a loved one before their time because of someone else's negligent or wrongful actions, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover financial compensation. The McClellan Law Firm is here for grieving families to guide them through the legal process. Our firm has won more than $250 million in verdicts and settlements for clients. You can trust our firm to get you the justice that you deserve.
Call The McClellan Law Firm at (619) 215-1488 for a free case evaluation.
When Is a Death Considered "Wrongful?"
Wrongful death lawsuits adhere to the same basic requirements as a personal injury lawsuit, which means that a valid claim depends upon a breach of the standard duty of care. This duty refers to the obligation held by every individual to avoid causing harm to others. Any action—or lack of action—that violates this duty renders the individual liable for any resulting damages.
A death that results from one of the following can be grounds for a claim:
How Much Time Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Like most personal injury and other negligence claims in California, plaintiffs have two years from the date of the victim's death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This two-year time period is known as the "statute of limitations."
What Type of Compensation Could I Be Entitled to?
Wrongful deaths can warrant financial compensation to cover a number of costs as well as emotional needs.
Compensation for these types of cases is always different, but usually falls into the following categories:
- Medical Expenses – Accident-related expenses incurred prior to the victim's death.
- Funeral Expenses – Expenses related to the funeral, burial, or memorial of the victim.
- Other Economic Damages – Any expenses incurred as a direct result of the death of the loved one, such as loss of income.
- Non-Economic Damages – Any emotional damage, such as pain and suffering or loss of companionship, resulting from the victim's death. In California, there are no caps on how much non-economic compensation a plaintiff can recover, except in medical malpractice cases.
Criminal Charges vs. Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When someone intentionally causes the death of another, criminal charges will likely be brought upon the offender. The victim’s surviving family members often do not understand that, even if the offender faces criminal charges, it is still possible to pursue a separate wrongful death claim.
These claims are considered civil lawsuits, and are intended to compensate surviving family members for damages they have suffered as a result of their loved one’s death, whereas criminal charges are intended to punish an offender for their wrongdoing.
Additionally, wrongful death lawsuits are not bound to the same principals of a criminal case, namely in that neither a presumption of innocence nor a burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt exists. Even if the defendant is found not guilty in a criminal case because of the existence of reasonable doubt, he or she may still be found legally liable for a wrongful death claim based on the evidence that does exist.
For example, OJ Simpson was cleared of the murder charges against his ex-wife and her boyfriend; however, he was found legally liable for their deaths in a civil trial.
In a wrongful death claim, the following must be proven:
- The existence of negligence or intent to cause harm
- A probable causative relationship between negligence or intent and the victim’s death
- Financial hardship for you and other surviving family members
Why File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
No amount of money can bring your loved one back or heal the emotional suffering that you and your family are enduring. However, a wrongful death claim can provide support to cover the financial damages that often result from the loss of a loved one.
For example, when an individual dies, so does his or her future earning potential, which might be the only source of income a family has. A wrongful death claim in these cases can ensure that a surviving family has the financial support they need for the future.
Skilled Representation for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If you lost a loved one because of the wrongful or negligent acts of another, you may be entitled to take legal action. To learn more about your case and how we could help, contact The McClellan Law Firm today. We have won more million-dollar and more verdicts and settlements than any other law firm in San Diego.
When you need an attorney you can trust, look to The McClellan Law Firm. Call us today.