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Personal Injury Firm in Los Angeles

West Coast Trial Lawyers

Los Angeles Wrongful Death Attorney

A wrongful death can occur at the most unexpected time, resulting in life-altering changes for the entire family of the deceased. If you have experienced the sudden loss of a loved one, please accept our condolences. 

You likely have many questions, concerns, and stresses at this time. No one expects to be in these unfortunate circumstances. However, when a wrongful death occurs, the victim’s heirs have the right to recover compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. 

Compensatory damages in a California wrongful death claim

1)What Is A Wrongful Death Claim?

According to California’s wrongful death law — which is primarily covered in California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60 —  a wrongful death is characterized by, “A cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another…” 

California wrongful death law (California Code Of Civil Procedure 377.60) further stipulates which family members are entitled to recover damages if a loved one was killed because of someone’s wrongful act. 

1.1 Who Is Entitled To Sue For Wrongful Death?

As outlined under California Code of Civil Procedure 377.60, below is a list of family members who are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim in court:

  • The decedent’s spouse
  • The decedent’s registered domestic partner
  • The decedent’s children
  • The decedent’s grandchildren, if the decedent’s children are deceased
  • Any minors who were at least 50% dependent on the deceased for financial support

Any individual entitled to the decedent’s property according to California’s intestate succession laws

1.2 Proving A Wrongful Death Claim

A successful wrongful death case will involve proving:  

  • The death of an individual
  • That the negligence or reckless actions of the defendant caused the death
  • That the surviving family members have suffered financially and emotionally

Surviving family members are typically entitled to bring a wrongful death claim in court for acts based on negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and especially for a deliberate wrongful act.

Examples of wrongful acts may include:

  • Car accidents, including DUI incidents
  • Pedestrian “knock down” accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Drowning
  • Murder/manslaughter
  • Elder abuse and/or neglect
  • Child abuse and/or neglect
  • Assault and battery
  • Medical malpractice

Furthermore, it’s important to understand that surviving family members may also be able to sue under strict liability if a loved one died because of a defective product.

2) Available Damages In A Wrongful Death Claim

Damages in a wrongful death claim are meant to compensate surviving family members for the loss of tangible and intangible forms of support they reasonably should have expected to receive had the victim not lost his or her life.

How does the court determine how much surviving family members must be compensated for? The period of time during which these damages are recoverable is typically the shorter of:

  1. The decedent’s life expectancy when the wrongful act took place
  2. The life expectancy of the plaintiff when the wrongful act took place

When it comes to determining life expectancy, factors such as lifestyle, overall health, and job occupation will all be taken into consideration by the court.

2.1 Economic Damages Vs. Non-Economic Damages

Economic damages may include:

  • Financial support that the decedent would have reasonably contributed to his or her family throughout their lifetimes
  • Loss of benefits or gifts the surviving family members would have reasonably expected to receive had the deceased not lost his or her life
  • Funeral and burial costs

Non-economic damages may include:

  • Companionship
  • Protection
  • Moral Support
  • Training and Guidance
  • Affection
  • Sexual Relations

Non-economic damages will be awarded at the court’s discretion and are based on common sense and available evidence. There is no set amount or tried and tested standard for determining a dollar amount. 

2.2 What About Punitive Damages?

A surviving family member cannot recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. There is only one exception, which is if the deceased was killed because of a felony homicide for which the defendant was already convicted.

 A surviving family member would have to file a “survival” cause of action on behalf of the decedent’s estate in order to recover punitive damages.

2.3 What Is A Survival Cause Of Action?

A “survival” action is not intended to compensate the decedent’s surviving family members for their losses. Instead, a survival action allows the estate a right to sue for losses sustained by the deceased because of the wrongful act that occurred before he or she died.

California Code of Civil Procedure 377.30 sets forth the requirements for a survival action. Typical damages recoverable in a survival action may include:

  • Personal Property Damage

3) Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations

The statute of limitations in California for both a wrongful death claim and a survival action is two years. The clock begins ticking in a wrongful death case on the date of death. When it comes to  survival actions, the decedent’s estate has exactly two years to file from the later of:

  1. The date of the injury or 
  2. Six months after the death

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help

A wrongful death attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered on behalf of your loved one, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring and compassionate legal team.


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