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How Loved Ones Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | May 24, 2018 | 0 Comments

Each year, thousands of Californians meet a sudden and tragic end as a result of someone else's negligence or wrongdoing. Whether the death occurs as a result of a fatal car accident, a slip-and-fall accident, a mishap in the workplace, pedestrian accidents, or due to physical assaults or medical negligence, families that have lost loved ones face tremendous emotional and financial challenges as a result of their loss.

The financial toll a sudden death takes on survivors is often minimized. Family members in such situations may be looking at immediate, unforeseen expenses such as medical costs and expenses related to funeral and burial. Family members also often have to deal with loss of income as a result of losing a wage-earning family member, who may sometimes be the family's only income earner.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Under California law, a wrongful death action may be brought by the deceased individual's personal representative, who is essentially a person “identified with standing” under the statute. The law defines a personal representative as an executor or administrator of the decedent's will or an individual who has “standing” in the relevant statute. Such individuals typically include the decedent's spouse or domestic partner and the decedent's surviving children (minor or adult).

If there is no survivor in the decedent's line of descent, then a wrongful death action may be brought by anyone who would be entitled to the deceased person's property by “intestate succession.” This could include the decedent's parents, siblings or other family members. Under California law, individuals who can demonstrate that they depended financially on the decedent or were the deceased person's putative spouse or children of the putative spouse, can also file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, the deceased person's stepchildren may also have standing to file a claim for wrongful death.

Complex Issues

Every family is different. Cases may become particularly complicated if the decedent has been married two or more times and when there are children and stepchildren and former spouses/partners involved. A wrongful death lawsuit could result in damages for losses including but not limited to medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of income  and benefits, loss of inheritance, pain and suffering and loss of love, care and companionship.

An experienced Orange County wrongful death lawyer will be able to analyze all aspects of the case and help you determine how, where and when the case should be filed. There is a statute of limitations in wrongful death cases. This means the lawsuit or claim should be filed within a certain time period or you will likely lose your right to sue. In most situations, wrongful death lawsuits should be filed within two years of the death. If the incident involved medical negligence, you have three years to file from the date of injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers the negligence. If a government agency is suspected to be liable, a government claim must be filed at the proper location within 180 days of the injury or death.


If you or a loved one have been affected by a wrongful death accident in the State of California, it is important to contact a distinguished professional specialized in wrongful death case law to help you get the emotional and financial compensation you deserve.

If you have additional questions, our Orange County Wrongful Death Lawyers have constructed this Ultimate Wrongful Death Guide to help those who have experienced a tragic and sudden death of a family member or loved one know what steps to take next in the legal process.

We understand that these types of accidents are never foreseen, and never easy to deal with.  Our California Wrongful Death Attorneys have the experience and the compassion to help you get the emotional and financial compensation you and your family deserve, to be at peace.  Contact us today  for a free consultation.

About the Author

Timothy J. Ryan

Personal injury attorney Timothy J. Ryan has helped California injury victims recover more than $1 Billion since 1981. Tim is on the board of governors for the Consumer Attorneys of California and received the 2020 award "10 Best Personal Injury Attorneys" for client satisfaction.


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Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has earned a national reputation for aggressive client advocacy and real results for grieving families. If you have questions about your loved one's death, you can obtain a free consultation from attorney Timothy J. Ryan. Call (714) 898-4444 to get help today.