When a person dies due to the negligence of others – such as in a car accident caused by a distracted or intoxicated driver – it can constitute a wrongful death case. Through a wrongful death claim, close loved ones of the deceased may receive financial compensation. While no amount of money can repay the life lost, compensation allows survivors to recover their monetary losses and focus on their healing.
If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death incident, you may be wondering if you can claim compensation. Read this guide on who can file a wrongful death claim. For legal advice specific to your case, reach out to a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney.
Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Under California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60, the following survivors of the deceased may bring a wrongful death case:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Grandchild/grandchildren (if the children of the deceased have also died)
- Other persons who might be entitled to the property of the deceased, such as their parents
- Putative spouse who was dependent on the deceased (a putative spouse is one who entered the marriage in good faith though the marriage later turned out to be invalid)
- Minor child/children dependent on the deceased and who resided with the deceased for at least 180 days – for example, stepchildren.
If the deceased person had a personal representative, this representative may file the wrongful death case on behalf of all the beneficiaries.
Though there are many potential beneficiaries, California law allows only one wrongful death action to be filed for a person’s death. The survivors must come together and jointly file one claim if they wish to be included as a claimant.
How is Compensation Divided in a California Wrongful Death Case?
When a wrongful death claim results in a monetary award, the funds will be divided among the listed beneficiaries. The claimants may agree among themselves on how to distribute the award. If they can’t reach an agreement, the court will have to decide on the distribution through a hearing.
Many families opt to divide a wrongful death award equally among all beneficiaries, while others decide to give a bigger share to certain loved ones. For example, they may allot a greater share for the decedent’s spouse or for a family member who is in dire financial need.
If the division goes to court, the judge will weigh several factors such as the expenses that each claimant has shouldered, and the financial needs of each claimant.
How Much Can a Family Receive in a California Wrongful Death Claim?
There is no standard amount awarded to survivors in a wrongful death case. In general, a successful wrongful death claim may compensate for the following losses:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills related to the deceased person’s accident
- Loss of financial support to each claimant
- Cost of replacement household services formerly performed by the deceased
- Pain and suffering of each claimant
- Loss of consortium or marital companionship
- Loss of guidance to young children
- Loss of emotional support.
Calculating the compensation you deserve can be difficult in a wrongful death case. Your losses are beyond the financial – they also include emotional distress, changed family dynamics, and adjustments in your day-to-day life. It’s wise to consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer to learn what you’re really entitled to.
Don’t Delay Your California Wrongful Death Claim
It takes time to grieve for the loss of a loved one, and the situation may remain highly emotional and confusing for a while. However, the law sets a certain time period for you to sue for your loved one’s death. Under California’s Statute of Limitations, you have only two years to file a wrongful death lawsuit, starting from the date of death. If the at-fault party was a government entity, the filing period may be even shorter.
It’s important to have a competent yet compassionate attorney on your side. You need a wrongful death lawyer who can assert the compensation you deserve while staying considerate towards you during this challenging time.
Contact an Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyer Today
Families in Southern California have come to trust our wrongful death attorneys at Barrios & Machado. With over 25 years of combined experience, we are skilled and tenacious in maximizing wrongful death claims while providing family-like treatment to our clients. We’ve won substantial amounts in the wrongful death cases we’ve handled, but we are more proud of the satisfaction and peace of mind we’ve brought our clients.
Your consultation with us is free. Talk to us about your potential wrongful death claim. Call (714) 515-9696 today.