Wrongful death claims are civil actions seeking money damages rather than criminal penalties. They arise when a person dies through an intentional act or the carelessness and negligence of another person or legal entity. Like any other state’s wrongful death law, California limits who can file a wrongful death claim. California’s wrongful death statute is complicated. It can be found at section 337.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.
Who Can Bring the Wrongful Death Claim?
- The decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner.
- The decedent’s surviving children.
- If none of the above, “anybody who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” Those people might include parents, brothers or sisters.
- Anybody who was financially dependent on the decedent at the time of his or her death.
These are brought as a separate claim. Do not confuse wrongful death claims with survival claims. Survival claims are brought by the decedent’s estate. In these claims, money damages are also sought as compensation for damages. For example, medical bills incurred by the decedent in connection with the accident between the date of the accident and date of death would be included in a survival claim.
The general rule is that California allows two years from the date of a decedent’s death to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. This is a strict rule, and there are very few exceptions to it. Evidence can disappear, recollections of events can get foggy and witnesses can vanish. You’ll want to speak with Newport Beach CA insurance dispute lawyer Reid Winthrop at the Winthrop Law Group as soon as possible about any wrongful death claim. Do so at your earliest possible convenience.