Losing someone you love unexpectedly can take a huge emotional and financial toll, particularly if that death was caused by the negligent actions of another person. Living with the aftermath can be difficult; however, it’s possible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue compensation for your loss. Because this type of case can be complex, having an experienced personal injury attorney at your side is helpful when filing a wrongful death claim.
What Is a "Wrongful Death"?
Caused by negligence or a wrongful or willful act, there are many types of wrongful deaths, including those caused by:
- Medical malpractice. A medical professional may be liable if he fails to properly diagnose a serious illness, fails to warn patients of known risks, or provides improper treatment that fails to meet the accepted standards for care.
- Vehicle accidents. Car and truck accidents caused by faulty vehicle components or negligent, drunk, drugged, distracted, or drowsy drivers are common causes of wrongful death.
- Slip and fall accidents. Also known as matters of premises liability, slip and fall accidents can result in serious injuries and wrongful deaths.
- Animal attacks. Dog and other pet owners who fail to prevent their animals from harming others can sometimes be held liable for injuries or deaths.
- Work-related deaths. If faulty equipment, supervisory negligence, or unsafe working conditions result in a fatal accident, family members may be able to pursue compensation.
- Exposure to toxic materials. Toxic chemicals can be encountered in the workplace or found in unsafe products. If you can show that exposure to toxic materials resulted in a loved one's death, you may be compensated for your loss.
- Nursing home abuse. In a nursing home setting, wrongful deaths can occur when the staff directly and willfully abuses a patient or behaves negligently.
- Defective drugs or products. Family members of patients and customers who were killed by drugs or products while using them as intended may be able to sue the manufacturer.
Usually heard in civil courts, wrongful death lawsuits can be brought against individuals, corporations, or public entities such as a city or state, city jail or state prison, a public company, nursing home, or school.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
California law only allows certain people to file a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue damages after the death of a loved one. If you are not authorized to file a wrongful death lawsuit under California's Code of Civil Procedure, you will not be able to recover monetary damages.
The following people can file a wrongful death claim under California law:
- The surviving spouse
- A surviving registered domestic partner
- Children of the deceased
- Whoever is entitled to the property of the deceased (in the event that there is no surviving spouse, domestic partner, or child)
- Dependents of the deceased, such as elderly parents or stepchildren
- Minors who lived in the home with the deceased for at least 180 days and relied on that person for more than half of their financial support
- A personal representative authorized to bring the lawsuit
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
The statute of limitations refers to how long a person has to file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of a loved one, and it can vary depending on the type of wrongful death case. In California, for example, medical malpractice suits must be filed within one year. Lawsuits against government agencies must be filed within six months of the fatal accident. When the statute of limitations expires, the wrongful death lawsuit can no longer be filed, and the family will not be entitled to collect damages. That’s why consulting with an experienced attorney is key to receiving compensation.
Do You Have a Wrongful Death Case? Our Attorneys Are Here to Help
If your loved one died as a result of negligence or wrongful actions on the part of an individual or corporation, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for medical and funeral costs, loss of anticipated earnings, loss of financial benefits, pain and suffering, loss of inheritance, loss of protection or companionship, and general and punitive damages.
The knowledgeable wrongful death lawyers at the Inland Empire Law Group have extensive experience handling a wide variety of wrongful death cases. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga and Victorville, and proudly serve Fontana, Ontario, and the entire Inland Empire and High Desert region. Contact the Inland Empire Law Group today to discuss your case.