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Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death? - The Larsen Firm

Does Insurance Cover Wrongful Death?

Our family members and friends are an important part of our lives, which makes losing a loved one unimaginable. However, sometimes the worst occurs, leaving grief stricken loved ones in its wake. 

People dealing with the trauma of losing a loved one know all too well that they are priceless. Nonetheless, funeral bills, medical costs, and lost wages are easily quantified and ultimately add up. The last thing that loved ones mourning the loss of their family should be concerned with is burying a loved one and finding a way to maintain financial stability. In this circumstance, you may be faced with a case involving wrongful death. Insurance may be the answer to recovering what you deserve for your loss. 

Understanding Wrongful Death

California law provides a cause of action when someone’s wrongful act or neglect causes another’s death. This law allows a victim’s family to file a lawsuit for the loss of the victim. The decedent’s personal representative may also file a suit on their behalf in a survival action. To prevail under a wrongful death lawsuit, loved ones must bring a claim based on any of the following.


California law states that negligence is when a person fails to use reasonable care and another person suffers harm as a result. Proving negligence requires that a party show:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  • The defendant breached that duty by failing to exercise reasonable care;
  • The defendant’s actions were the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and 
  • As a result of defendant’s actions, the plaintiff suffered a legally recognizable harm.

For example, if a landowner or possessor fails to properly maintain their premises, leading to the death of another, the victim’s family or estate may proceed under a wrongful death lawsuit. Many people going through a similar situation may wonder, Does insurance cover negligence? Yes; most California insurance policies cover negligence. An experienced attorney will figure out what your best options are for recovering any damages owed to you. 

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence is the lack of any care or an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation to prevent harm to others. The difference between “negligence” and “gross negligence” is in the defendant’s conduct. While a plaintiff would have to prove the same elements of negligence, the two are different in that gross negligence requires “extreme” conduct by the defendant. For example, if a ride operator failed to perform a safety check on a ride, as required prior to its operation, causing the operator to miss a hazardous condition on the ride, they may be found guilty of gross negligence. Failing to recognize a hazardous condition may just be negligence. Completely foregoing the safety check to catch any hazardous conditions may be gross negligence.


Recklessness is above and beyond negligence and even gross negligence. Recklessness is found under circumstances where the defendant knew or should have known of the substantial likelihood of risk or injury that the defendant’s conduct could cause to the plaintiff but the defendant knowingly disregarded the risk—for example, if someone discharges a weapon into the air in a crowded area. If the person knew or should have known there were people in the area and the weapon’s discharge causes the death of another, the victim’s family may be able to proceed with a wrongful death case based on recklessness.

Intentional Wrongdoing

Intentional wrongdoing, otherwise known as willful misconduct, is when a defendant engages in conduct with actual knowledge of probable injury or with a wanton and reckless disregard of the possible results to the plaintiff. For example, if a defendant engages in a street race in a school zone with caution lights flashing and causes the death of the victim, the victim’s family may sue for wrongful death based on intentional wrongdoing or wilful misconduct. 

What Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?

Sometimes wrongful death insurance claim does not cover everything that a victim’s family or estate needs. A wrongful death lawsuit may be the only other alternative as opposed to being stuck with a hefty bill. Whether the victim’s loved ones receive compensation through the liable party’s wrongful death insurance or in a subsequent lawsuit against any parties or insurance companies involved, possible compensation may cover: 

  • Outstanding medical expenses,
  • Loss of past and future income of the decedent,
  • Funeral expenses,
  • Costs of mental health therapy for you and other loved ones of the decedent, 
  • Loss of consortium, and
  • Loss of parental guidance.

How much you can recover may depend on both the damages suffered and the limits of the liable party’s insurance policy. Your attorney will discuss the best option for recovery in your case. 

Acts Affecting Insurance Coverage

Although obtaining proceeds from the defendant’s negligence insurance is a viable option to cover expenses, insurance companies have exculpatory clauses that may limit the amount of recovery based on the defendant’s conduct. Common exculpatory clauses include: 

  • Intentional acts. California’s Insurance Code precludes coverage for losses caused by the willful acts of the insured. Homeowner liability policies typically include an explicit exculpatory clause that prevents homeowners from recovering for injuries that were expected or intended by the insured.
  • Criminal acts. Criminal acts are closely linked with intentional acts. Thus, they are typically included with intentional acts exclusions. 

Additionally, California’s Proposition 213 precludes recovery of noneconomic losses by fleeing felons, drunk drivers, and uninsured motorists. 

Attorneys That Fight for You

The Larsen Firm have decades of experience as attorneys fighting for clients like you. In fact, the firm has an over 99% success rate for cases. We have recovered over $950 million for our clients from insurance companies and corporate defendants. We take pride in fighting for “the little guy,” meaning that we will not stop until your family gets the justice it deserves. Contact our law firm today so that you can get closer to closing this strenuous chapter of your life. 

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