Elements of a California Wrongful Death Suit

family member at funeral service of wrongful death victim

In order for a wrongful death suit to be successful, there are certain elements that need to be present. It is important for the surviving family to understand all of these elements before pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in California.

Element 1: Did the Wrongful Death of a Human Being Occur?

The answer to this question must be yes. A death had to have occurred and must be proven to have been caused directly by the actions of someone else, and not another cause. The death must also be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Element 2: Did a Willful or Negligent Act Cause the Wrongful Death?

The act must be proven to have been negligent, reckless, willful or intentional. An example may be a driver that rear ended and killed someone while being distracted by a cell phone.

Common causes of wrongful death claims include:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Car or other motor vehicle accidents
  • Criminal actions (stabbings, shootings, blatant violence)
  • Occupational hazards and exposure (such as asbestos)
  • Supervised activities (field trips, school, daycare)

Element 3: Has a Loss Been Suffered by the Survivor?

The loss of income or monetary support provided is the most common and provable type of loss. The loss of the deceased’s income would cause grave financial hardship on the surviving family. In addition to damages caused by financial loss, the surviving party could also get awarded losses related to:

  • Loss of love/affection
  • Loss of physical support- Physical help can be assigned a dollar value. If the deceased provided all of the yard work, for example, a landscaper may need to be hired now.
  • Funeral or burial costs
  • Loss of a caretaker, protection, guidance, inheritance, etc

Typically, punitive damages are not awarded unless the defendant is convicted of felony murder that is connected to the victim’s death. Additionally, medical bills are typically not recovered, but can be pursued under a separate survival action claim.

Element 4: Statute of Limitations

In the State of California a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date the death occurred.

If you have suffered the loss of a loved one and meet all of the above criteria, you may have the means to file a claim. Contact Sacramento wrongful death attorney Frank Penney for a free consultation.

Recent Blog Posts

  • commercial trucks on highway

    Vicarious Liability Torts in Commercial Truck Accidents

    If a negligent driver causes a commercial truck accident, the trucking company can be burdened with vicarious liability torts. The company can be held liable for the driver’s negligence under the legal tenet known as respondeat superior, a Latin phrase that translates as “let the superior make the response.” This concept transfers the truck driver’s […]

    Read More
  • california fire possibly caused by utility company under strict liability

    3 Fascinating Strict Liability Tort Cases in Sacramento

    Tort liability in personal injury cases is most often based on acts of negligence, but there are exceptions. Sometimes the responsible party is held to the strict liability tort standard, meaning that a finding of negligence or malicious intent is not required. The most common types of strict liability tort cases are based on: Product […]

    Read More
  • student injured at school - parents suing for negligence

    Suing a School for Negligence: What You Need to Know

    A negligence-based lawsuit against a school can have unique complications, depending on the type of institution it is. Overall, teachers, school administrators, and other staff have a “duty of care,” meaning they must take reasonable steps to avoid and prevent circumstances likely to cause personal injury to a student. Some reasons you might want to […]

    Read More
  • Sacramento Office
  • 333 University Avenue, Suite 200
  • Sacramento, CA
  • (916) 756-0772
  • Roseville Office
  • 1544 Eureka Road, Suite 120
  • Roseville, CA
  • (916) 788-1960
  • Oakland Office
  • 1300 Clay St, Suite 600
  • Oakland, CA
  • (510) 962-4610

© 2019 Penney Law, Serving the Areas of Sacramento, Roseville, Fairfield, Modesto, Stockton & Oakland California