If your family member died in an accident resulting from another person’s negligence, you may be eligible for financial damages in California. This type of monetary award covers costs like lost support, medical bills and funeral expenses. 

Explore the process of filing a wrongful death claim after losing a loved one in California. 

Filing a claim 

In California, certain family members of the deceased can claim wrongful death. If the person had a spouse or children, those individuals can file this type of lawsuit. When the deceased did not have a spouse or children at the time of death, his or her next of kin can file a claim. Foster children, in-laws, stepchildren and former spouses may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit when they meet specific requirements. 

Proving negligence 

The plaintiff in a wrongful death suit must prove that the defendant neglected a duty to act with care. For example, a drunk driver who fails to drive safely would be legally negligent if he or she caused a fatal accident. The plaintiff must also show that he or she has suffered financial damages as a result of the person’s death and name a personal representative to manage the deceased’s estate. 

Understanding damages 

The court may order the defendant to pay the following monetary and nonmonetary costs in a successful wrongful death lawsuit: 

  • The loss of the deceased person’s affection, companionship, guidance and love 
  • The loss of financial support provided by the deceased person 
  • The loss of the deceased person’s current and future wages 
  • The person’s final medical expenses 
  • Associated funeral and burial expenses 

If your loved one died in an accident and you believe a third party was responsible, you have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. For this reason, you may want to act quickly to gather evidence and documentation even though financial compensation is likely not your first priority at this difficult time.