Compensation In Wrongful Death Cases: What Can You Expect In California?

When a loved one dies due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another person or entity, it can be a devastating experience. While no amount of money can bring back a lost loved one, compensation in wrongful death cases can help ease some of the financial burdens that arise from such tragic events.

In California, there are specific laws and regulations regarding wrongful death lawsuits and the types of damages that may be available to eligible parties.

This article will provide an overview of compensation in wrongful death cases in California. We will discuss eligibility for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, the types of damages that may be available to plaintiffs, how damages are calculated, and how to find the right attorney for your case.

By understanding your legal options in California wrongful death cases, you can make informed decisions about seeking compensation for the losses you have suffered.

Key Takeaways

  • Wrongful death cases in California involve specific laws and regulations, and eligibility is determined by legal criteria.
  • Compensation for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages may be available, but monetary compensation cannot bring back a loved one or cure emotional wounds.
  • Pursuing legal action can provide closure and control, but finding the right attorney with experience, communication skills, and resources is essential.
  • Families may be eligible for benefits from government programs, and consulting with an attorney knowledgeable about these programs is important.

Eligibility for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California

The eligibility for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California is determined by specific legal criteria that must be met. One of these criteria is the relationship between the plaintiff and deceased individual. The plaintiff must be someone who has suffered harm as a result of the death, such as a surviving spouse, child, or parent. It is also possible for other individuals, such as domestic partners or financial dependents, to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Another criterion for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California is establishing the cause of death. The cause of death must have been due to the negligence or intentional actions of another party. This can include medical malpractice, car accidents caused by another driver’s reckless behavior, or criminal acts resulting in someone’s death. In order to prove this element of the lawsuit, evidence must be presented that shows how the defendant’s actions directly led to the victim’s death.

Additionally, it is important to note that there are time limits on when someone can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The statute of limitations for these types of cases is two years from the date of the person’s passing. If this deadline passes before legal action is taken, then it may not be possible to recover damages through a wrongful death claim.

Eligibility for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California requires meeting specific legal criteria related to one’s relationship with the deceased and proving that their actions were responsible for causing their loved one’s passing. Additionally, timing plays an important role in determining whether legal action can still be pursued. With these factors considered and understood, it becomes easier to understand what types of damages may become available following success in bringing forth such claims against those responsible for causing harm leading up until tragic events unfolded into something more severe than anyone could bear on their own without help from outside resources aimed towards resolving injustices done unto them during tough times like this when they need all support they can get!

Types of Damages Available in Wrongful Death Cases

Various forms of financial awards are granted to the plaintiffs in litigation involving fatalities caused by negligence or intentional harm. The damages awarded to the family members or beneficiaries of the deceased in a wrongful death lawsuit serve as compensation for their loss and cover various expenses incurred as a result of the fatal incident.

These include economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. Economic damages reimburse families for financial losses resulting from the death of their loved one. These may include medical bills, funeral costs, lost income, and other expenses incurred due to the untimely passing of the victim.

Non-economic damages compensate families for intangible losses such as emotional distress, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering endured by both the deceased person and surviving family members. Punitive damages are intended to punish defendants who have acted with gross negligence or intent to harm. Although not always awarded in wrongful death cases, they can be substantial if deemed appropriate by a judge or jury.

Punitive damages are intended to deter others from engaging in similar behavior that could lead to wrongful deaths. Understanding the types of compensatory awards available in wrongful death lawsuits is crucial when seeking justice for your loved one’s untimely passing. Economic and non-economic damages provide monetary relief while also acknowledging emotional pain suffered by survivors.

Punitive damages serve as a deterrent against future reckless behavior leading to deaths caused by illegal actions or gross negligence on behalf of individuals or corporations responsible for preventing such tragedies. Calculating these types of compensatory awards can help you obtain just compensation for your loss without being left feeling unjustly compensated after fighting through legal proceedings over an extended period only finding out it was all in vain.

Next up: calculating damages in wrongful death lawsuits.

Calculating Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

When calculating damages in wrongful death lawsuits, it is important to consider the economic and non-economic losses suffered by the surviving family members or beneficiaries of the deceased.

Economic damages refer to financial losses such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and future earnings that would have been earned had the person not died.

Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are intangible losses such as emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of companionship and love.

The calculation of damages also takes into account several factors including age, earning capacity of the deceased, life expectancy at time of death and health status before death.

In California wrongful death cases involving minors for example, special rules apply with regard to compensation for loss of parental guidance and support.

The jury may consider various factors including the child’s age at time of parent’s death when awarding damages.

It is worth noting that while monetary compensation cannot bring back a loved one or cure the emotional wounds caused by their sudden absence; it can go a long way in helping survivors cope with economic hardships arising from their loved one’s passing.

Furthermore, pursuing legal action against those responsible for your loved one’s death can give you a sense of closure and control over what has happened.

Finding the right attorney for your wrongful death case is essential if you hope to achieve success in obtaining fair compensation.

A qualified attorney will help ensure that all necessary evidence is gathered including medical reports, police records or witness statements which can then be presented before a judge or jury during trial proceedings.

With an experienced lawyer by your side guiding you through this difficult process; you can focus on grieving your loss without having to worry about dealing with insurance companies or navigating complex legal matters alone.

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Wrongful Death Case

Securing the services of an experienced attorney is imperative if one hopes to navigate the complexities of a wrongful death lawsuit and achieve a favorable outcome. However, finding the right attorney for your wrongful death case can be a daunting task. To help you choose the best attorney, here are three factors to consider:

  1. Experience – Look for an attorney who has handled similar cases before. An experienced lawyer will have knowledge of relevant laws and procedures that can make all the difference in the outcome of your case.
  2. Communication – Choose an attorney who communicates regularly with clients and keeps them informed about their case’s progress. You want someone who will listen to you and take into account your needs and concerns during this difficult time.
  3. Resources – A successful wrongful death lawsuit often requires substantial resources. Therefore, look for an attorney or law firm that has access to necessary resources such as medical experts, investigators, and financial analysts.

Once you find an appropriate lawyer, they will advise you on how to proceed with your wrongful death claim based on your unique circumstances, goals, and objectives.

Understanding your legal options in California wrongful death cases is crucial after choosing a qualified attorney.

Understanding Your Legal Options in California Wrongful Death Cases

Understanding the legal options available in cases of wrongful death in California is essential for individuals seeking justice and closure after the loss of a loved one.

In California, a wrongful death claim can be filed by surviving family members or those who were financially dependent on the deceased. These claims typically seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and loss of companionship.

One legal option available in California is to file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for the wrongful death. This type of lawsuit can be brought under various legal theories such as negligence, intentional harm, or product liability. If successful, these lawsuits may result in monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff(s) by a judge or jury.

Another option available to families is to pursue an out-of-court settlement with the party responsible for their loved one’s death. Settlements are often reached through negotiations between attorneys representing both sides and can result in a quicker resolution than going to trial. However, it is important to have experienced legal counsel during these negotiations to ensure that any settlement agreement adequately compensates you for your losses.

Families may also be eligible for certain benefits from government programs such as workers’ compensation or Social Security survivor benefits if their loved one was killed while on-the-job or had paid into these programs throughout their life. It is important to consult with an attorney knowledgeable about these programs and how they apply in your specific case.

In conclusion, understanding your legal options following a wrongful death in California can help provide you with closure and justice after experiencing such a tragic loss. Whether pursuing a lawsuit against those responsible or negotiating an out-of-court settlement, it’s essential to have experienced legal representation guiding you through this difficult time. Additionally, government benefit programs may also provide financial assistance during this challenging period.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating the legal process can be tricky, particularly when it comes to specific regulations in Southern California. Here are answers to seven of the most frequently asked questions:

The length of time it takes to settle a wrongful death case in California varies depending on the specifics of the case.

Factors such as the complexity of the legal issues involved, the number of parties involved, and whether or not there is a dispute over liability can all impact how long it takes to reach a settlement.

Additionally, some cases may need to go to trial if a settlement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation.

In general, however, most wrongful death cases in California are settled within two years of filing.

It is important to note that every case is unique and there is no set timeline for any particular case.

Therefore, it is crucial to work with an experienced attorney who can provide guidance throughout the process and help ensure that your rights are protected.

A wrongful death lawsuit can still be filed even if the deceased was partially at fault for their own death. This is known as comparative negligence, which means that the amount of compensation awarded will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to the deceased.

In California, there is a pure comparative negligence system which allows for recovery even if the deceased was 99% at fault for their own death. However, it is important to note that proving partial fault on behalf of the deceased can be a complex legal process and may require expert testimony.

Ultimately, it will be up to a jury to decide how much compensation should be awarded based on all relevant factors including any contribution to the wrongful death by the deceased.

Punitive damages are available in California wrongful death cases, but only under certain circumstances. To be eligible for punitive damages, the defendant must have acted with malice or fraud, oppression, or reckless disregard for the life and safety of others.

Punitive damages serve to punish the defendant for their egregious behavior and deter them from engaging in similar conduct in the future. The amount of punitive damages awarded is typically determined by a jury and can vary widely depending on the severity of the defendant’s actions.

While punitive damages do not bring back a loved one lost due to another’s negligence, they do provide some measure of justice and accountability for their actions.

In California, family members of the deceased can be compensated for emotional distress in a wrongful death case. This compensation is usually awarded to close family members who have experienced significant emotional trauma as a result of their loved one’s untimely death.

Emotional distress damages can include compensation for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering caused by the loss of a loved one. However, it is important to note that proving emotional distress damages can be challenging and requires strong evidence to support the claim.

Additionally, the amount of compensation awarded for emotional distress varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the emotional trauma experienced by each family member.

Settling a wrongful death case out of court is possible, and it is not an uncommon practice. Many times, defendants will offer to settle before the case goes to trial in order to avoid the risk of losing in court.

Settling out of court can save both parties time and money, as going to trial can be costly and time-consuming. However, it is important to note that settling outside of court may result in a lower payout for the plaintiff than if they were to win their case in court.

Ultimately, whether or not to settle out of court is a decision that should be carefully considered by all parties involved, taking into account the potential risks and benefits of each option.


Wrongful death cases can be emotionally and financially draining for the bereaved family members. In California, filing a wrongful death lawsuit requires meeting specific eligibility criteria. Once eligible, families can pursue damages that cover both economic and non-economic losses incurred due to the untimely passing of their loved one.

Calculating damages in wrongful death lawsuits is a complex process that depends on various factors such as lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering. It is crucial to find an attorney who specializes in wrongful death claims to ensure that families receive fair compensation.

In conclusion, while nothing can bring back a loved one lost due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, pursuing legal action provides some semblance of justice for the victim’s family. Understanding your rights and options under California law is essential when seeking compensation in wrongful death cases. By partnering with experienced attorneys who understand how to navigate these types of cases, grieving families can achieve closure and financial stability during this challenging time.

Final Thoughts

At Baric Law, we’re here to help. As a former prosecutor and one of the Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America, Steve Baric has the experience and skills necessary to guide you through this complex process. Contact us at (833) 467-2022 or email to schedule your free 30-minute case evaluation.


Our team is here to assist you. Give us a call and we will be happy to discuss your case in a no-obligation consultation.


~ Tony Rackauckas
Orange County District Attorney (Retired)

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