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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?

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An unexpected death is painful for the surviving family members. The grief, devastation, and damages can be overwhelming. If you believe that negligence or a wrongful action caused the death of your loved one, then you need to consult a San Jose wrongful death attorney. Wrongful death claims can provide financial support for certain family members who lost loved ones.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit brought by a victim’s surviving heirs. The lawsuit seeks damages from the “at fault” party for actions that led to the loved one’s death.

A wrongful death lawsuit is different from seeking criminal punishment. This is because a wrongful death suit seeks monetary compensation for losses caused by the loved one’s death, which makes it a civil matter.

Every state allows for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state, including California, has laws determining who is eligible to file a claim.

A wrongful death lawsuit has several common elements:

  • Negligence. Another person’s actions or negligence must have caused the death. Examples include a driver’s negligent operation of a car, a company’s design of a faulty product, or a physician’s negligent treatment of a patient.
  • Connection. There must be an established link between the defendant’s actions and the victim’s death.
  • Damages. Plaintiffs must suffer damages, which could include:
    • Funeral costs
    • Medical expenses
    • Loss of future income
    • Loss of companionship
    • Loss of love and affection

What Is Considered a Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death claim can arise from any situation in which someone dies as a result of someone else’s wrongful action. A wrongful action could be any of the following:

  • Murder or manslaughter
  • Medical malpractice
  • Car accident fatalities
  • Product liability
  • Nursing home neglect or abuse
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Understanding California’s Wrongful Death Statute

Wrongful death statutes in California allow a representative of the decedent, or the decedent’s estate, to sue for damages. These damages may include medical costs, funeral costs and mental suffering.

Who can file a wrongful death suit? A representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased’s surviving loved ones, as can the loved one’s heirs. Such survivors could include:

  • Spouse of decedent
  • Parents of a deceased minor
  • The domestic partner of the decedent
  • Children of decedent

If none of the listed parties are still living, then other heirs or family members may obtain the right to file a claim. People who may become eligible to collect compensation from the liable party could include the decedent’s parents, siblings, or dependents.

It is important to know that in California, there are no caps or limits on wrongful death awards in non-medical malpractice cases.

California’s wrongful death statutes allow the filing of claims up to two years after the victim’s death. However, there are exceptions. If a government entity is to blame, grieving family members may only have six months to seek action. In addition, the statute of limitations may be paused or tolled for a period of time under certain circumstances. If you are unsure about how much time you have to file a claim, an attorney can help you figure it out.

Contact Our San Jose Wrongful Death Attorneys

It could be difficult to seek compensation for the death of a loved one without skilled legal help. Family members who are dealing with such a tragedy should consider contacting a wrongful death lawyer.

Contact the San Jose wrongful death lawyers at Needham Kepner & Fish LLP. We offer free initial consultations. Call us today at (408) 956-6949 or fill out our confidential contact form.