Dealing with the loss of a family member is never easy but can be especially harrowing if their death occurred due to someone’s negligence or intentional act. While money provides little consolation, surviving family members may be able to seek financial compensation via a wrongful death lawsuit.
This article provides an overview of filing a wrongful death claim in Orange County, CA. Read on to learn about the legal requirements and factors that can impact the outcome of your wrongful death case.
In legal terms, “wrongful death” is death caused by the intentional, reckless, or negligent behavior of another. The deceased person’s estate and close family members are usually eligible to seek financial compensation (“damages”).
Note that a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case, meaning you can only pursue a civil remedy in the form of monetary payment from the responsible party.
Depending on the facts of the case, your loved one’s death may also give rise to criminal charges and a separate homicide lawsuit in a criminal court. If the criminal case ends with a conviction, the wrongdoer will face jail or prison time, probation, and/or other sanctions.
Almost any situation involving negligence, recklessness, or intentional behavior in which a person dies can be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Common examples include:
The surviving family members of the deceased person have the right to file a wrongful death suit. Immediate family members have precedence. The order of priority goes like this:
When too many people are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s often more practical for one attorney to represent all plaintiffs. In such cases, you may want to consider having the personal representative of the decedent’s estate file one claim on behalf of all interested parties. The court will then distribute the settlement in line with state laws.
Damages in a wrongful death case aim to compensate heirs for the value of the support their family members would have provided had they lived. Wrongful death settlements may pay out both economic and non-economic damages.
There is no cap on damages in a California wrongful death lawsuit except for the statutory limit on medical malpractice damages.
Economic or monetary damages in a wrongful death settlement can include:
Non-economic wrongful death damages include compensation for:
Punitive damages aren’t usually available in a wrongful death lawsuit unless your family member’s death was due to a felony homicide and the wrongdoer was convicted. However, you may be able to seek punitive damages in a separate survival action on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Plaintiffs in Orange County often pursue wrongful death suits in combination with another type of civil lawsuit: survival actions. The deceased’s personal representative can bring a survival action on behalf of their estate to seek compensation for losses suffered by the victim (rather than their family).
A survival action can compensate the deceased’s estate for two types of losses:
Damages available in survival actions include:
The time limit, also known as the statute of limitations, for filing a lawsuit varies depending on your location and the cause of action. Every state has its own wrongful death statute of limitations.
In California, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s passing to initiate a wrongful death action.
For survival actions, the estate has two years to file a claim from the latter of either:
If the loss of your family member was someone else’s fault, you should be able to seek justice for your loved one’s death. At Khalil Law Group, our wrongful death attorneys believe the responsible parties should be held liable.
Our legal team has many years of experience representing family members in wrongful death cases. Call (714) 617-5189 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with an Orange County wrongful death attorney.