When a person or entity's negligent or intentionally malicious actions cause someone's death, California law allows certain members of the victim's family to sue for economic and non-economic damages related to their loved one's untimely passing. Here's what you should know about wrongful death cases in the Golden State, including how damages are distributed among survivors and how our highly-skilled Inland Empire personal injury attorneys can help you fight for the fair recovery you deserve.
Who Can File a Wrong Death Lawsuit
Not everyone who knew and loved the victim can file a wrongful death lawsuit. State law limits filing eligibility to the decedent's:
- Domestic partner
- Grandchildren (if the victim's children are also deceased)
- Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who depended on the victim for 50 percent or more of their financial support
- Any other beneficiaries according to California intestate succession laws
- Personal representatives for any of the above individuals
Potential Damages in a Wrongful Death Action
Surviving family members can potentially recover compensation for funeral and burial costs; loss of household services; loss of household support; loss of consortium; loss of love, society, and companionship; loss of guidance for minor children; and loss of future financial support. Additionally, the estate itself can recover damages for economic losses—such as hospital and medical bills—that the victim incurred before death related to the defendant's negligence. Our knowledgeable wrongful death team can help you determine which types of damages may apply to your case.
How Damages Are Distributed
In California, all potential claimants must be joined in one claim, to proceed with a wrongful death claim, or a representative of the estate of the deceased must be named and a suit brought for the estate. If the claim ends in a settlement or judgment resulting in a financial award, the distribution of the amount can be agreed upon by those entitled to recover or, if no agreement can be reached, a hearing can be held to decide the amount to be allocated to each of the beneficiaries. Common arrangements include dividing the damages equally among all beneficiaries, or giving a larger portion to the surviving spouse and/or children, with the other parties dividing what's left in equal shares. However, these are far from the only acceptable ways to distribute wrongful death damages.
How an Attorney Can Help
Ideally, all beneficiaries in a wrongful death claim would come together and agree on how to fairly divide the damages. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Sometimes beneficiaries try to claim more than their fair share. When eligible beneficiaries can't agree on settlement distribution, the court can step in and distribute the damages according to each beneficiary's financial needs. In making this decision, the court considers a wide range of factors, such as needs for housing, education, the closeness of the individual to the deceased and other essentials.
If the distribution of damages in your wrongful death claim is contested—or you're concerned that could be the case—it's absolutely vital to have an experienced and skilled California civil attorney representing you. Not only can an attorney help you throughout the wrongful death claims process, but they can also fight for you to receive a fair distribution of damages. They'll handle communications with insurance companies and the defendant's legal counsel, so that you won't have to. They will formulate a strategy for the best possible success in the claim, including if the matter needs to go to trial. The goal is to make this complicated process as simple as possible for you, and to secure the best outcome for you.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney
Did you lose a loved one in a car crash, truck wreck, motorcycle collision, pedestrian crash, bicycle wreck, or other personal injury accident caused by someone else's intentionally malicious actions or negligence? We're so sorry for your loss. Though filing a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party (or parties) and seeking compensation for financial and emotional damages can't bring back your beloved family member, it can serve to hold the responsible person or entity accountable and defray the expenses you've incurred as a result of your loved one's death.
If you're ready to take legal action against the person or company responsible for your family member's death—or need help resolving the contested distribution of damages—contact the Inland Empire Law Group today at (909) 481-0100 or toll free (888) 694-3529 to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss your case with a member of our team.