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3 important rules for California wrongful death lawsuits

On Behalf of | Nov 28, 2023 | Wrongful Death

When someone dies unexpectedly, their loved ones face an assortment of challenges. There are the obvious practical implications of an untimely death. Families have to cover funeral costs and find a way to replace lost wages. They will need to redistribute the work that someone performed around the house so that things don’t fall into disarray. Survivors also need to cope with the emotional consequences that come from grief, which can be the greatest challenge of all.

A wrongful death lawsuit is sometimes an option for those who have lost a loved one in California. Generally, those filing such lawsuits need evidence that the misconduct or negligence of another party caused the death of their loved one. They also need to abide by certain rules established in California law and through court precedent.

Limits on who can file

In some states, the personal representative of an estate files a wrongful death lawsuit. That is not the standard in California. California law allows close family members to file wrongful death lawsuits. It will often be the surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased to pursue a lawsuit. More distant family members can also file a wrongful death lawsuit if someone did not have a surviving spouse or any children.

Limits on when people can file

California law limits when people can take certain legal actions. There are different statutes of limitations that apply to different kinds of lawsuits. Those seeking compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit will typically need to file the necessary paperwork with the California civil courts within two years of someone’s death. Otherwise, if they wait too long, they may lose the right to take legal action.

Limits on seeking punitive damages

Many families pursuing wrongful death lawsuits focus on economic losses. They can also claim certain non-economic losses the family will suffer. Others want to punish the party that caused the death of their loved one. They may do this by requesting punitive damages. Punitive damages do not relate to a specific loss but are instead a form of penalty for the party at fault for the death. California generally only allows people to pursue punitive damages if the situation involves a felony. If the defendant in the lawsuit gets convicted of a felony offense, then the family can potentially request punitive damages. Otherwise, punitive damages may not be an option.

Most families adjusting to life after a tragedy need assistance navigating the legal system. Learning more about wrongful death lawsuits by seeking legal guidance can potentially help families to successfully pursue justice after someone’s passing.

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