If the intentional or negligent actions of another person caused your loved one’s death, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against them. A wrongful death claim is a type of personal injury claim that arises when someone dies as a result of injuries someone else caused.

In this article, we’ll cover four essential things you should know before filing your claim. If you want a more detailed explanation of your legal options, contact the law offices of Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook. One of our compassionate wrongful death attorneys will evaluate your case and answer your questions.

1. The Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a lawsuit. Per Section 335.1 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, the statute of limitations for a personal injury, including one that results in death, is two years. Generally, the statute of limitation for a wrongful death case in California is two years from the date of the decedent’s death. However, there may be shorter or longer statutes of limitations, depending on the case type. For example, wrongful deaths arising from medical negligence generally have a one-year statute of limitation. Cases against public entities, like cities, counties, or government departments, have a 6-month claim requirement that essentially acts as a statute of limitation.

If you attempt to file a claim beyond this deadline, the courts will likely toss out your claim as untimely filed. For this reason, we recommend hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney. Your attorney knows how to file your claim correctly and within the statute of limitations.

2. The Standard of Proof

Wrongful death claims are civil cases, not criminal ones. At the end of your trial, the defendant won’t be found guilty, but they may be found liable for damages. This distinction between civil and criminal cases is important because it also changes the standard of proof.

A standard of proof is the level to which you, as the plaintiff, must prove your case. As you may know, in a criminal trial, the state must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is a very high standard of proof.

In a civil case, you only have to prove that the death of your loved one was more likely than not caused by the actions of the defendant, a standard formally known as a “preponderance of evidence.” Because the standard of proof in wrongful death cases is lower than it is in criminal cases, a plaintiff can still win a claim against a defendant found not guilty of the crime of murder.

3. Who Can File a Claim

According to Section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, the following parties can file a wrongful death claim, in descending order of priority:

  • The deceased’s spouse or domestic partner
  • The deceased’s children
  • The deceased’s grandchildren whose parents are no longer alive
  • The deceased’s parents or legal guardians
  • Other individuals to whom the estate of the deceased would pass under intestate succession

If you’re unsure whether you qualify to bring a wrongful death claim, an attorney from Casper Meadows Schwartz & Cook can provide legal advice.

4. Types of Compensation Available

As stated in the Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 3921, the types of compensation you can seek through a wrongful death claim in California fall into two categories: Economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

The economic damages you can seek compensation for include:

  • Financial support the deceased would have provided had they not died
  • Gifts or benefits the deceased would have provided had they not died
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided had they not died

Non-Economic Damages

The non-economic damages you can seek compensation for include:

  • Loss of consortium (love, companionship, comfort, etc.)
  • Loss of sexual relations
  • Loss of training and guidance provided by the deceased

Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys in Walnut Creek

Did the actions of another person cause your loved one’s death? If so, contact the wrongful death attorneys of Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook for a free consultation of your case. You and your loved one deserve justice, and we want to help you demand it.