When you find out that your sibling died because of someone’s wrongful actions, you might feel like your world will never be the same. The compassionate professionals at The Larsen Firm are here to help you hold the wrongdoer responsible for your loved one’s wrongful death and start on the road to recovery.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person’s negligent or willful misconduct causes another person’s death. After a wrongful death, the law allows the surviving family members to financially recover through a civil lawsuit called a wrongful death lawsuit. When a California court finds that a person’s negligent or wrongful acts caused death, the wrongful party must pay compensation to the injured party.
The California Code of Civil Procedure limits the parties who may collect in a wrongful death lawsuit to close family members and dependents. If you need to know who is entitled to wrongful death benefits, you can meet with an attorney at The Larsen Firm to discuss your case.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
California’s wrongful death statute entitles the spouse, children, and grandchildren to sue the person who caused their loved one’s death. Additionally, anyone financially dependent on the person who died (decedent) has the right to file. If there are no children or grandchildren, a family member who would receive property under California’s Probate Code has the right to recovery under the wrongful death statute.
California’s laws of intestate succession dictate who gets the decedent’s property if they pass without a will. They also determine who may file a wrongful death lawsuit when the decedent has no living children or grandchildren. In that case, the decedent’s spouse is entitled to file. If there is no surviving spouse, the parents have the right to file. Only when a person dies without children, grandchildren, or parents may the person’s siblings recover through a wrongful death lawsuit.
What Do You Need to Succeed in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death cases allow surviving family members to hold a person responsible for their loved one’s death. To succeed in a lawsuit, you must show that the person’s negligent behavior caused death. To prove negligence in California, you must have evidence that:
- The person owed your loved one a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances;
- The person failed to adhere to that duty; and
- The person’s negligent actions caused your loved one’s death.
For example, a driver who fails to use reasonable care to avoid an accident is negligent. If the driver’s negligence causes an accident that results in death, they are responsible for the resulting damages.
What Counts As Damages in a Wrongful Death Suit?
Like all lawsuits claiming damages for negligence, the family can recover economic and noneconomic damages in a wrongful death suit. At trial, a jury will decide how much money will reasonably compensate the family. Regardless, a wrongful death award usually includes reimbursement for:
- The loss of your family member’s financial support;
- The loss of gifts or benefits that your loved one would have given you if they had lived;
- Funeral and burial expenses; and
- The reasonable value of household services that your loved one would have provided.
Depending on your relationship, you may also receive an award to compensate you for:
- The loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, or moral support;
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations; and
- The loss of your loved one’s training and guidance.
It’s important to understand that you cannot recover damages for your pain and suffering or the decedent’s pain and suffering in a wrongful death suit. If your loved one experienced pain and suffering because of someone’s negligence before they died, you might be entitled to file a survival action on their behalf.
When you file a claim for wrongful death, you will need to provide evidence of the value of your losses. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you collect and document your damages to secure a full recovery.
What if My Loved One Was Partially at Fault for Their Death?
California follows the doctrine of pure comparative fault. This means that if your loved one’s negligent actions contributed to their death, you may still file a wrongful death suit. At trial, the jury will determine each party’s percentage of fault for the accident and distribute compensation accordingly. Under the pure comparative fault rule, you can be up to 99% responsible for your accident and still collect 1% of your damages from the other party. For example, suppose a person was hit while crossing an intersection, but the “walk” sign was not on. The fact that the pedestrian’s actions were unreasonable does not relieve the driver from their responsibility to exercise due care for the safety of pedestrians.
How Long Do I Have To File a Wrongful Death Suit?
After the death of a loved one, you may feel lost and hopeless. Contacting a lawyer is one way to get your life back on track. However, California limits the time for filing wrongful death lawsuits to within two years of a person’s death. It’s easy to lose track of time while grieving, but waiting to call might result in your being barred from recovering any compensation. Don’t wait to reach out if you think someone is responsible for your loved one’s death.
The Larsen Firm: Helping You Determine if You Can Sue for Wrongful Death
When you call The Larsen Firm, you reach an approachable, friendly, and compassionate person who will listen to you and explain your options. If you’ve lost a brother or sister, you may wonder, Can Siblings Sue for Wrongful Death? We have the answers, and we are here to help. Our team is dedicated to helping people like you get their lives back after the death of a loved one.
Let us handle the legal details so you can focus on your health and family during this difficult time. Initial consultations are free, and if we are unable to assist you, we will do our best to refer you to other legal options. Call today.