If you’ve lost a loved one due to a negligent or intentional act of another person, you may have a right to compensation in the form of a wrongful death insurance settlement or jury award.
While no amount of money can make up for the untimely demise of a loved one, a wrongful death payout may ease the financial burden on your family in this challenging time.
Read on to learn about common causes of wrongful death cases in California and find out whether your loved one’s passing qualifies as wrongful death.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death in California?
Under California State law, a death caused by the careless or intentional behavior of another person typically qualifies as wrongful death.
If you’ve lost a close family member in a wrongful death accident, you may be able to seek compensation by filing an insurance claim or initiating a lawsuit in a civil court.
In cases in which the death was caused by an intentional or violent act, the state may also initiate separate criminal proceedings against the perpetrator.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Cases in California
Virtually any accident that causes a fatality may qualify as wrongful death if you can establish that the responsible party acted negligently or intentionally. Common causes of wrongful death cases in California include:
According to the latest data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 38,824 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. in 2020. Of these, 3,847 were in California — the second highest number after Texas.
California boasts a whopping 5,869 miles of interstate highway according to the Federal Highway Administration — again, second only to Texas in all of the U.S.
The Golden State’s sprawling highways attract a lot of commercial vehicle traffic, which unfortunately goes hand in hand with an increased risk of truck accidents. The National Safety Council registered 437 deaths caused by large truck accidents in 2021 alone.
According to California’s Office of Traffic Safety, pedestrian deaths in 2020 amounted to 25.6% of all traffic fatalities in the state. In Orange County alone, 375 pedestrians were killed from 2017 through 2021, according to the local coroner’s office.
Alarmingly, nearly one in four pedestrians who die on the road in California are killed by hit-and-run drivers. Other types of accidents that contribute to pedestrian fatality statistics include distracted and DUI driving.
According to data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 462 people in California died due to fatal workplace accidents, including:
- Transportation incidents (142)
- Exposure to harmful substances (103)
- Acts of violence (87)
- Falls, trips, and slips (78)
- Contact with objects and equipment (44)
Industries that traditionally have the highest worker fatality rates include roofing and construction, logging, farming, and fishing.
Research from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that defective or unsafe products cause 21,400 fatalities and a staggering 29.4 million injuries each year.
If you lost a loved one due to a defective product or equipment, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against anyone in the marketing chain — not just the manufacturer but also retailers, wholesalers, and distributors.
Can You Bring a Wrongful Death Action in California?
California law allows the deceased’s surviving family members or legal representative to bring a wrongful death action. First priority goes to the deceased’s:
- Spouse or domestic partner
If there are no survivors in the first priority group, anyone who would be entitled to inherit the deceased under the laws of intestate succession may file a wrongful death lawsuit. “Intestate” means dying without leaving a will. This group includes the deceased’s parents, siblings, and other relatives.
In addition to the first two groups, the following people can also file a wrongful death lawsuit if they were financially dependent on the deceased:
- A putative spouse (someone who wrongly believed in good faith that they were lawfully married to the deceased)
- Children of the putative spouse
- The deceased’s stepchildren
- The deceased’s parents or legal guardians
What Is the Time Limit To File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The legal deadline — also known as a statute of limitations — to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California is two years from the date of death.
You may be able to secure an extension of the deadline by the court in very limited circumstances, but you shouldn’t count on that. In the vast majority of cases, you will lose the right to sue if you don’t file within the two-year window.
What Compensation Is Available in Wrongful Death Cases?
You may be able to recover the following compensation (“damages”) in a wrongful death case:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Financial support the deceased would have provided had they lived
- Gifts or benefits you expected to receive from the deceased
- The reasonable dollar value of household services the deceased would have provided
- Loss of the deceased’s love, care, companionship, guidance, assistance, protection, society, and moral support
- Loss of intimacy with the deceased (for the surviving spouse/domestic partner)
Contact an Experienced Orange County Wrongful Death Attorney
If you’ve recently lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, you should be focusing on your grief, not fighting complex legal battles on your own.
At Khalil Law Group, our team has experience with all common causes of wrongful death cases in California. Let us take care of the legal legwork while you focus on more essential things in this challenging time.
Call (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to book your free consultation with one of our wrongful death attorneys.