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What Is A Wrongful Death Claim in California?
The death of a family member is a horrible experience for anyone, but it is only made worse when the death did not have to occur. In situations where a person needlessly died due to another person’s negligence, California civil code allows for wrongful death claims when there is “cause of action for the death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another”.
In many wrongful death claims, a wide range of people may be able to file suit. Ultimately, the law requires that everyone who may have a legitimate claim, must be named in the wrongful death suit either as a plaintiff (this is the name of the person who sues), or as an involuntary defendant. According to California civil code, people who have legitimate claim, include:
- The surviving spouse or domestic partner;
- Any children of the deceased;
- Any person(s) who would be entitled to the property of the deceased, as if he or she did not have a will (intestate succession)*;
- Individuals dependent on the deceased including a putative spouse, the children of the putative spouse, stepchildren or parents of the deceased;
- A minor, if that minor had resided with the person for 180 days in the person’s home and was dependent on the person for at least half of his/her support;
- The decedent’s personal representative on behalf of those authorized to bring the suit.
A wrongful death must be able to be proven as a result of a wrongful act or negligence of another. There are a few instances where a victim does not qualify under the wrongful death statute in California.
The death of an unborn child or fetus is such an instance and is not actionable in California under its wrongful death law. The California Supreme Court has held that, “A fetus is not a person within the meaning of our wrongful death statute until there has been a live birth”. Death from a justifiable homicide is another instance where the victim’s family would be prevented from bringing a wrongful death action.
Deaths that are a result of suicide may still qualify as a wrongful death. When the responsible party owed a duty of care to the victim and a lack of care substantially contributed to the suicide, the family of the victim may be able to successfully file a wrongful death claim.
Even if your loved one contributed to causing the wrongful death in some way or you believe he or she may have contributed to causing the accident that caused the wrongful death, this does not bar you from recovering for the wrongful death in the state of California. California operates under the pure comparative fault rule. This means that the plaintiff will still recover damages after his or her percentage of fault has been deducted, even if the plaintiff was 99 percent at fault.
Even if you believe that your loved one may have contributed to the accident that caused the wrongful death, it is still a good idea to consult with an attorney. An attorney can help determine who is truly at fault by uncovering facts surrounding the circumstances of the wrongful death and help to maximize your recovery.
Don’t Delay in a Wrongful Death Claim – As with all claims, there are statute of limitations to consider when filing a wrongful death claim. In the case of wrongful deaths in California, there are at least three statute of limitations to consider:
- Most personal injury and wrongful death claims must be filed within two years or injury or death.
- In the case of medical malpractice and health care provider negligence, the law provides for three years from the date of injury or one year from the discovery of the injury, whichever occurs first.
- Any claim against the state government usually must be filed at the proper location within six months of the injury. Examples of government claims include wrongful death occurring while in an official vehicle or medical malpractice at a county or state hospital.
There are many rules and procedures to comply with in wrongful death claims, and you should consult with a California wrongful death attorney about your specific case as soon as you can.
Whatever you do, don’t delay in bringing your wrongful death claim. Evidence can be lost, witnesses may disappear or a statute of limitation may be missed. If these things happen because of a delay on your part, you may not be able to recover anything for your loss.
Contact a Professional Rancho Cucamonga, California Wrongful Death Claims Attorney
Winning a wrongful death claim can be an uphill battle. These claims can be extremely complicated and time consuming. By contacting an experienced attorney familiar with wrongful death claims, you can take a step towards achieving closure in this trying time. At the Law Offices of Justin King, your wrongful death case will receive the necessary care and attention required to give you the best chance of righting the wrong your family has suffered. Contact our law offices today for a free case consultation.
Justin King - Wrongful Death Injury Attorney Serving Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County.
At The Law Offices of Justin King, we understand the emotional and financial toll death can have on your life, family, and future. Our experienced injury attorneys work hard to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you receive the compensation you are entitled to for your loss. We are experienced in negotiating settlements with opposing counsel, and insurance companies, and will strive to obtain the best possible result for you, regardless of the severity of your injuries.
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Most caring and amazing lawyer - Justin was more than helpful and amazing since the day my husband and I hired him. One thing that stuck out the most to me was his genuine personality. He made me feel more important than just another client. I remember in the beginning of the case we spoke very often over the phone. He called to give me some new information concerning the case and to ask me a few questions. At the end of our conversation we hung up and a few moments later he called back just because he wanted to ask how I was doing with the injury I was suffering from, and to see how I was progressing. He always took his time to see how I was doing, and fought very hard to see me get what I deserved. My case lasted two years, and I'm sure there wasn't a week that went by where I didn't hear from him. He always kept me up to date and informed about what was happening in the case. He went far and above anything I could have ever expected and helped me get the results I could not even of imagined. I don't hope to ever need a personal injury attorney ever again but if I do I would hire Justin over and over again, and recommend him to everyone I know. I loved working with him. Visits to his office and phone calls from him were always very welcoming…..read more on our ‘testimonials’ page.