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Understanding Wrongful Death Law In California

Posted by Timothy J. Ryan | Feb 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

For an attorney, no other area of law is as difficult to handle, or as emotional as a wrongful death case. This claim takes an emotional toll on a family and on their attorneys, however an experienced wrongful death lawyer can shoulder that burden when you need help most. In order to understand the difference between a wrongful death claim and a personal injury claim, one has to first understand who is the claimant and what damages can be sought. In the instance where a person is badly injured in an accident, they have a personal injury claim. However, when that injured person dies, the personal injury claim becomes a wrongful death claim, and instead of the victim receiving compensation for their injuries, the decedent's heirs under California's wrongful death statutes will receive compensation.

A wrongful death is a devastating event that a family can never be prepared for and not all attorneys really understand the emotional consequences that come along with such a painful event. The majority of wrongful death attorneys in California handle wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis where they advance all the costs associated with your case and are reimbursed for those costs only if they obtain a settlement or an award through mediation, arbitration or trial.

Types Of Compensation In Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death compensation typically includes any burial and funeral expenses and out of pocket expenses that the family or the attorney might have incurred in connection with the wrongful death. In a wrongful death case, attorneys can seek compensation for

  • Loss of love, society and companionship
  • Loss of moral support
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of household support
  • Burial & funeral expenses
  • Economic financial losses
  • Loss of marital relations
  • Loss of guidance
  • Pain and Suffering of the Decedent
  • Out of pocket expenses
  • Vehicle damages
  • Punitive Damages
  • Emotional distress on witnessing the fatal incident

Wrongful Death Laws and Statutes In California

Under wrongful death laws in California, only the closest heirs and dependents can bring a claim against the at fault party or against their insurance company namely the surviving spouse of the victim, any children, other dependent minors living in the household for six months or more, and dependent parents. In cases where there are none of the above heirs, those who may make a claim are those who would be able to inherit under the laws of intestate succession in California are as follows

  • Parents; If there are none,
  • Siblings or children of deceased siblings; if none,
  • Grandparents; if there are none,
  • Children of any deceased spouse; if none,
  • Any next of kin.

A wrongful death suit may also be brought by a personal representative of the estate of the decedent and any recovery is then distributed in accordance with the California wrongful death statutes. Such actions can be advisable when there are many heirs entitled to make a claim. If you've suffered the loss of a loved one in a wrongful death accident, retain the services of an experienced wrongful death lawyer to get the compensation you deserve.

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.