July 22, 2019

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California Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Silicon Valley Wrongful Death Lawyers

Some of the most high profile wrongful death lawsuits in California came about after a criminal case in which the defendant is tried for homicide, whether they are convicted or not. The OJ Simpson case is an example of this. In reality, a wrongful death lawsuit can be pursued anytime the victim could have pursued a personal injury lawsuit, had they not perished from their injuries. Car accidents, slip and fall, and other forms of negligence can be the basis for wrongful death lawsuits. The purpose is to compensate the surviving loved ones financially, not to punish the responsible party.

Read below to learn more about California Wrongful Death Lawsuits.

Wrongful Death vs. Criminal Charges

People are often confused about wrongful death lawsuits, especially in cases where the defendant was tried for a crime and found not guilty. The reason that wrongful death is both actionable and feasible in that situation is that it is a civil suit, rather than a criminal matter, and the defendant is not at risk of losing life or liberty, so the standard of proof is lower.

As mentioned above, the majority of wrongful death cases do not involve intentional violence. Simple negligence leading to an accident, with no intent to do harm, is all that is required. A wrongful death lawsuit is also appropriate when a defective product causes fatal injury.

The purpose of wrongful death is to compensate the loved ones of the decedent for the losses that they have suffered and will continue to suffer in the future due to the untimely death. It is not designed to punish the wrongdoer, although in certain circumstances punitive damages may also be available.

California Wrongful Death Claimants

California law is specific about who has the right to be a claimant in a wrongful death suit. Potential claimants include:

  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Children
  • Putative spouse, and the children of the putative spouse
  • Stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Minor children living in the decedent’s household for at least six months prior to the decedent’s death

The spouse or domestic partner and the children get first priority in wrongful death, over other possible claimants. A putative spouse is a person fully believed that they were married to the decedent, but the marriage was actually invalid.

California Wrongful Death Damages

In California, wrongful death damages can include:

  • Medical, funeral, and burial expenses
  • Lost income and future lost income and support, including benefits and gifts
  • Lost services, such as childcare and maintaining the household
  • Lost love, affection, companionship, society, protection, guidance, advice, and moral support