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Applying the Wrongful Death One Action Rule

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A wrongful death claim allows surviving spouses and registered domestic partners, as well as certain family members, to recover compensation on behalf of a loved one who was killed because of someone’s negligence or deliberate acts of malice. A wrongful death claim entitles surviving family members to recover monetary compensation for losses they would have enjoyed had the aggrieved person not lost his or her life. Typically, all surviving family members must join together to file claim. According to California’s one action rule, the guilty individual cannot be sued more than once my multiple people.

Below, our experienced wrongful death attorneys will discuss California’s wrongful death one action rule. If you have lost a spouse or registered domestic partner, the experienced wrongful death attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to answer any questions you may have about wrongful death claims and available damages you may be entitled to.

What Is The One Action Rule?

In short, California’s one action rule basically states that any individuals who want to file a wrongful death claim for damages must include everyone who counts as an heir to join together and file one claim. Any damages will then be given to the family and they will have to figure out the best way of dividing up the damages amongst themselves. Typically, families can figure this out for themselves, but if there are issues or disagreements with dividing up damages, a court can intervene and decide how to best divide the settlement amount.

It is not the responsibility of the guilty individual(s) to contact and coordinate a claim with all known heirs. Whoever decides to bring a wrongful death claim against the guilty party must take care of this responsibility for themselves. However, just because the claimants cannot locate all known heirs does not mean the wrongful death claim will not go through. These individuals may still be entitled to appropriate compensation.

On the other hand, there may be issues when qualified heirs have been inadvertently excluded, because these individuals also have a right to being compensated as well. Any excluded individuals will then have to take legal action against the other claimants, and not against the guilty individual in order to recover damages entitled to them.

Finally, if the claim is being filed by a representative of the decedent, and not an actual family member, the requirement for the inclusion of all valid claimants is waived. Furthermore, if a defendant was aware that a valid claimant was not part of the wrongful death claim, the one action rule will not apply. In that case, a plaintiff may go ahead and file a wrongful death claim against the defendant.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages
Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.
A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain And Suffering
  • Loss Of Enjoyment Of Life

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts.
Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

Limitations For Damages In California
For the most part, there is no real cap on compensatory damages following a personal injury claim. This means that courts are able to award any amount they feel is appropriate and reasonable.However, the only exception is regarding medical malpractice cases. In these cases, the limit for pain and suffering and other non economic losses is $250,000.

West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here To Help
If your loved one was a victim of wrongful death due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or hospital, West Coast Trial Lawyers has experienced wrongful death attorneys that will get you the justice you deserve. Our attorneys will help you recover financial and emotional compensation for damages such as emotional distress, property damage, lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation at our firm. No fees are paid until your case is settled. Reach out to our legal team 24/7 by calling (213) 927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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