COVID-19 UPDATE: We are open! Our team is working and offering consultations via phone, e-mail, and video conferencing.

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
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents

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?"

A wrongful death occurs when a person dies as a result of the negligence or wrongful actions of another party. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions filed by the surviving family members or beneficiaries of the deceased individual seeking compensation for the losses they have suffered due to the death.

A death that results from one of the following can be grounds for a claim:

How to Prove Liability for a Wrongful Death

In California, to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit, you generally need to prove the following elements:

  1. Death of a Person: The plaintiff must establish that a person has died.
  2. Negligence or Wrongful Conduct: The death must have been caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of another party. This could include reckless behavior, intentional harm, or negligence that led to the fatal incident.
  3. Causation: There must be a direct link between the defendant's actions or negligence and the death of the individual. The plaintiff must show that the defendant's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the death.
  4. Breach of Duty: The plaintiff needs to demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person and that the defendant breached that duty through negligent or wrongful conduct. For example, if the death occurred in a car accident, the plaintiff may need to show that the defendant violated traffic laws or acted negligently while driving.
  5. Damages: Surviving family members or beneficiaries must have suffered measurable damages as a result of the death. Damages may include economic losses such as medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of financial support, as well as non-economic losses such as emotional pain and suffering.

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.

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.

Other reasons why you should file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Accountability and Justice: A wrongful death lawsuit allows for the accountability of the party responsible for the death. Holding the negligent or wrongful party legally responsible can provide a sense of justice for the grieving family members and may deter similar behavior in the future.
  • Deterrence: The legal process and potential financial consequences can serve as a deterrent, discouraging others from engaging in negligent or wrongful conduct. This may contribute to increased safety and prevention of similar incidents in the community.
  • Closure and Emotional Relief: While no amount of money can replace a lost loved one, the compensation obtained through a wrongful death lawsuit can provide some financial stability for the surviving family members. This financial relief can contribute to a sense of closure and ease the burden of dealing with the practical consequences of the loss.
  • Acknowledgment of Loss: Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can be a way for the family to formally acknowledge the impact of their loss. It recognizes the wrongful nature of the death and validates the emotional and physical pain suffered by the surviving family members.
  • Prevention of Similar Incidents: By holding parties accountable for their actions, a wrongful death lawsuit may contribute to improved safety standards and practices. This, in turn, can help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
  • Compensation for Non-Economic Damages: In addition to economic losses, wrongful death compensation may include non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional distress. These damages recognize the intangible losses experienced by the surviving family members.

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.

Here are some advantages of choosing our firm:

  • Legal Expertise and Experience: At The McClellan Law Firm, we bring a wealth of legal expertise and experience in handling wrongful death cases. Our attorneys understand the complexities of the legal system and have a proven track record of successfully representing clients in similar situations.
  • Comprehensive Case Assessment: We conduct a thorough evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the wrongful death to determine liability and assess the strength of the case. This includes gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and working with experts to build a compelling case on behalf of our clients.
  • Navigating Legal Procedures: Our team is well-versed in the legal procedures and requirements involved in wrongful death lawsuits. We handle all aspects of the legal process, including filing necessary documents, meeting deadlines, and representing our clients in negotiations or court proceedings.
  • Maximizing Compensation: We work diligently to identify all potential sources of compensation for our clients. This may include pursuing damages for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost future earnings, and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Our goal is to maximize the financial recovery available to the surviving family members.
  • Negotiation and Litigation Skills: We are skilled negotiators and litigators who are prepared to handle negotiations with insurance companies or take a case to trial if necessary. Our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients, whether through settlement or litigation.
  • Emotional Support and Compassion: Dealing with the loss of a loved one is emotionally challenging. Our team at The McClellan Law Firm provides compassionate support to our clients throughout the legal process. We understand the sensitive nature of wrongful death cases and strive to alleviate some of the burdens our clients face.

When you need an attorney you can trust, look to The McClellan Law Firm. Call us today.

  • Endorced by the Inner Circle of Advocates

    Craig McClellan is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only group of the top 100 plaintiff trial lawyers in the United States.

  • Best Lawyers in America 2020

    Craig McClellan has been selected to the list of The Best Lawyers in America every year since 1993.

  • The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Personal Injury in the 2023 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawers "Best Law Firms" - Personal Injury Litigation Plaintifs Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Personal Injury in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" - Commercial Litigation Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Commercial Litigation in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" - Product Liability Tier 1, 2016

    The firm earned a Tier 1 ranking in Product Liability in the 2022 list of the Best Law Firms.

  • Craig McClellan earned one of the top 10 medical malpractice settlements in California, securing a $9,000,000 settlement for a client.

  • Top 10 Settlements

    Craig McClellan & Conor Hulburt earned one of the top 10 premises liability settlements in California, securing a $3,175,850 settlement for a client.

  • Craig McClellan selected to Super Lawyers list, Top 10 San Diego Attorneys

    Craig McClellan has been selected to the list of Super Lawyers every year since 2007, and earned the most votes of ANY lawyer for 2019 in San Diego.

  • Craig McClellan was voted Lawyer of the Year for Product Liability Litigation by Best Lawyers for 2019.

  • 2020 AV Preeminent Peer Rated

    Attorney McClellan earned a Distinguished rating from Martindale-Hubbell for his achievements.

  • America's Top 100 Personal Injury Attorneys

    Craig McClellan is listed as one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators in Business Litigation, Personal Injury, and Product Liability.

  • Craig McClellan is rated 10.0 on Avvo - Top rated Personal Injury Lawyer

    Attorney McClellan has a 10/10 “Superb” rating, the highest rating an attorney can receive from Avvo.

  • BBB Accredited Business

    The firm has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, the highest possible rating offered by the organization.

  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego

    Attorney McClellan is a member of the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, and previously served on its Board of Directors.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan was named as one of the “Best Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Times.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named as one of the “Best Attorneys” by the Los Angeles Times.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan named “Best Lawyers” by San Diego Metro.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named one of the “Best Lawyers” by San Diego Metro.

  • Attorney Craig McClellan named Top Lawyers in San Diego in Business Litigation by San Diego Magazine.

    Attorney Craig McClellan was named one of the Top Lawyers in San Diego in Business Litigation by San Diego Magazine.

  • Craig McClellan has been named among the Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers, which honors the nation’s top advocates.

Trusted Recommendations

See More Reviews
  • We wouldn’t be here, in this moment of life without the kindness and professionalism of you all and how you went to bat for us! Eternally grateful! A.K.

  • Immediately after our interview we knew without question that no matter how steep the mountain, win or lose, we had found the right person—Craig McClellan, Esq.—[…] We felt a profound sense of ... G.P.

  • We will NEVER forget what you did for us Craig. We are FOREVER GRATEFUL. K.V.

  • I just wanted to thank you for your efforts on [Pam’s] behalf, your skills, and your heart. You are not just a lawyer in what you do, you are a master of your profession. And I hope you are passing ... Juror

  • I thank you for your kindness and generosity in giving selflessly without reserve. Additionally, please extend my thanks to your staff for their diligent work and encouragement throughout the trial. A.D.

  • We do not quite know how to verbalize or show how grateful we are to have had the distinct honor to have you represent us at truly the most critical time in our lives. S.C.

  • Having had the high privilege of presiding over a number of cases involving national counsel, I want you to know you’re one of the very best [...]. You and those with you were outstanding ambassadors ...

  • It was a real honor to preside over a case with you as counsel. In my mind you represent all that is good in our profession. Judge J.

  • Your appearance on the nation-wide broadcast of ‘60 Minutes’ was a public service in which all San Diego has reason to take great pride. To integrity—you have added public service and again elevated ... Juror

  • We could not be happier with the McCllelan Law Firm team! My husband and I were referred to Craig McCllelan by one of his peers. We had a very sensitive medical malpractice case that we were hesitant ... S.P.

Get Help Today All Consultations Are Free of Charge
  • Please enter your first name
  • Please enter your last name
  • This isn't a valid phone number
    Please enter your phone number
    You entered an invalid number
  • This isn't a valid email address
    Please enter your email address
  • Please select an option.
  • Please tell us about your case.