Common Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Cases in California

By Ese OmofomaJuly 24, 2023
Common misconception about wrongful death cases in California

Losing a loved one is devastating, and the days ahead can be challenging in many ways. While you need time to grieve, you will also have to attend to details such as funeral arrangements, the paying of medical bills, and more. If the death resulted from some negligence on the part of another, you may also want to consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Misconceptions often surround wrongful death claims, and you may feel confused about whether it is the right action. If so, the California wrongful death lawyer with Omofoma Law can help you understand when filing such a lawsuit is recommended and dispel the most common myths about these cases.

How Our Wrongful Death Attorney Can Guide You Through Your Wrongful Death Claims

How our wrongful death attorney can guide you through your wrongful death claims

At a time when grief and financial uncertainty can be overwhelming, seeking the legal advice and guidance of our wrongful death attorney will be beneficial. We will first evaluate your case to determine whether you should continue with a claim and, if so, what steps will be necessary.

Our wrongful death attorney can guide you through the claims process, explaining each of those steps along the way. This type of case often involves unique challenges and can be complex. Your attorney, knowledgeable in California wrongful death law, will conduct an investigation, compile evidence, establish liability, and build a strong case on your behalf.

In addition, our legal team will calculate damages to seek for the loss of your family member. These calculations will consider factors such as the decedent's life expectancy and the total economic losses resulting from the untimely death. Entering negotiations for a fair settlement will occur next, and if no fair amount can be agreed to, your attorney will diligently represent you in court.

What You Need to Know About "Wrongful Death" in California

When your loved one's death results from either an intentional or accidental act in California, filing a wrongful death claim can help you avoid undue financial hardship and seek justice for your family member.

A wrongful death occurs when an individual dies due to some form of misconduct by another. This other can be a person or an entity. Examples of cases involving wrongful death in California include:

  • Incidents involving negligence (e.g., auto accidents, hazardous premises, or defective products);
  • Medical malpractice; and
  • Intentional acts, including criminal actions.

Most Prevalent Myths About Wrongful Death Cases in California

Most prevalent myths about wrongful death cases in California

Questions surrounding filing wrongful death claims in California are often mired in myth and misconception. Below we dispel these prevalent myths.

A Wrongful Death Claim Can Only Be Filed by Immediate Family Members

California law outlines who can file a wrongful death claim. While immediate family members have “first priority to file” such a lawsuit, other relatives and individuals can also do so. Those who can file in California first include:

  • Surviving spouse or domestic partner;
  • Surviving children; and
  • Surviving grandchildren.

Additional parties that may be able to file include:

  • Those who could potentially inherit from the deceased’s property if the decedent died intestate. This will be based on intestate succession laws.
  • Any proven dependent such as a parent, stepchild, or putative spouse who relied on the decedent financially. A putative spouse is one who, in good faith, mistakenly believed that they were in a legal marriage with the decedent.

If you are unsure if you fit into the categories allowed to file a wrongful death claim, consult an attorney to determine your eligibility.

You Should Not Assign Blame to Anybody in an Accident

While assigning blame in an accident will not bring your loved one back, it is essential in cases where death occurs due to someone else's negligence. Even if you initially believe no malice occurred, exploring the circumstances surrounding the death is imperative to ensure negligence was not involved.

Filing This Lawsuit is What Greedy People Do

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit and seeking monetary damages can appear to some as a way to profit from the death of a loved one, thus causing many to hesitate in taking action. However, doing so is not a greedy act but a legitimate action to take when negligence is shown to be involved. As such, you can legally seek compensation to help your family.

Wrongful Death Claims are Straightforward

Wrongful death claims are rarely straightforward. Instead, they are complex, with the need for the claimant to prove that the other party was negligent in some way and this negligence led to the death of their loved one. In addition, the claimant will have to show that they suffered damages. These cases can become even more complicated when the other party claims that the decedent was partially or wholly responsible for their own demise.

The Procedure Can Be Drawn-Out

When a lawsuit is drawn out, the claimant can grow tired and disheartened with the process. However, an attorney specializing in these cases can aid a wrongful death claim, decreasing the time it takes to reach a fair settlement or court award.

Wrongful Death Claims Only Apply to Deaths Due to Accidents

While many wrongful death claims arise from accidents, such as car crashes or workplace injuries, they can also be for incidences of medical malpractice, intentional or criminal acts, or product defects.

You Do Not Need to File a Wrongful Death Claim if You Are Already Receiving Life Insurance Benefits

You do not need to file a wrongful death claim if you are already receiving life insurance benefits

Your loved one may have life insurance, and you now receive those benefits. While many believe you do not need to file a wrongful death claim because you already receive life insurance benefits, that is untrue. In many cases, it is imperative that you do. 

While you are in a better financial position due to these benefits, at least temporarily, they usually come in a lump sum, and this lump sum fails to take into account additional losses. Such losses include outstanding medical bills, lost wages and benefits of the decedent, and more. Filing a wrongful death claim will be necessary to obtain compensation to cover these losses.

You Are Not Qualified to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim

If you think you are not qualified to bring a wrongful death claim or someone tells you so, consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Immediate family members are not the only ones who qualify for filing in California.

A Wrongful Death Lawsuit is the Same as a Criminal Homicide Case

A wrongful death lawsuit is not the same as a criminal homicide case. While both can result from one event or act, there are distinct differences. These differences include the following.

  • The government files criminal homicide cases, while wrongful death lawsuits go before the civil court and are brought by a decedent’s surviving family members.
  • In a criminal case, the government prosecutor is fully responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In civil lawsuits, a preponderance of the evidence must be presented, which means the claimant must show that the individual is more likely than not responsible for their loved one’s death.
  • A criminal homicide conviction can bring prison time and/or probation, and order the defendant to pay restitution to surviving family members. On the other hand, a wrongful death civil lawsuit focuses on seeking monetary compensation for damages.

You Can Hire a Lawyer Anytime for Your Wrongful Death Claim

You can hire a lawyer anytime for your wrongful death claim

Hesitating to hire a lawyer for your wrongful death claim can damage the outcome of your claim. By seeking legal help as early as possible, you can start with a strong case and have competent representation throughout the process. Your attorney can investigate, compile evidence, and keep track of deadlines under the California statute of limitations.

Damages and Compensation in California Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death lawsuits seek damages and compensation for surviving family members of the decedent. Such compensation in California can be for economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages include those that can be assigned a monetary value. These most often include the following:

  • Funeral and burial expenses for the decedent;
  • Outstanding medical bills from death-causing injury(s);
  • Lost wages from the decedent’s employment;
  • Any other financial support that the decedent would have contributed; and
  • Loss of any benefits the family expected to receive if the decedent had remained alive.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate or assign a monetary value as they are not tangible. For such damages, the claimant may be able to seek compensation for any or all of the following:

  • Loss of companionship and comfort;
  • Pain and suffering for the decedent prior to death;
  • Loss of care, assistance, protection, and/or guidance of the decedent; and
  • Loss of intimacy.

Punitive Damages

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one, you may also be able to seek punitive damages. Such circumstances include intentional or egregious conduct on behalf of the defendant. The award of punitive damages is to punish the other party for their misconduct and serve as a further deterrent to acting in such ways in the future.

However, there are two main complications to obtaining punitive damages. First, your legal team will need to prove that the defendant acted in a way that involved malice, fraud, or oppression and that this wrongful act led to the individual's death. Secondly, a calculation of punitive damages will need to be made. This calculation is a complicated process and can include factors such as the misconduct's severity and the defendant's financial condition.

To learn more, seek the legal advice of a dedicated wrongful death lawyer to determine if you are eligible for punitive damages and, if so, how to prove the factors required for the award.

Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California

To file a wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil action, claimants must follow strict filing deadlines or risk losing their legal rights to do so for the loss of their loved one.

California's statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the individual's death. Failing to file within this timeframe can mean your claim will be denied entirely. There are a few exceptions; however, that may allow a different filing timeframe, but you will need to work with an attorney to determine if your case qualifies.

It takes time to build a strong wrongful death case. The sooner you consult with an experienced California attorney, the sooner you can start building your case, including compiling evidence, and protect your right to file your lawsuit without missing the state deadline.

Reach Out to Omofoma Law to Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Trusted California Wrongful Death Lawyer

Reach out to Omofoma Law to schedule a free consultation

If you have suffered the loss of a family member and believe you may be able to seek a wrongful death claim, reach out to the law offices of Omofoma Law. Our trusted California wrongful death lawyer will review your case, discuss your legal options, and begin building a solid case on your behalf.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Request Your
Free Consultation

Fill out the contact form or call us at (213) 455-4050 to schedule your free consultation. No Fees Unless You Win!

"*" indicates required fields

Los Angeles, CA
355 S Grand Ave, Suite 2450, Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 455 4050
Orange County
18650 MacArthur Blvd, Suite 300, Irvine, CA 92612
(213) 455 4050
Phone Number:
(213) 455-4050
Fax Number:
(213) 260-2328
Business Hours:
355 S Grand Ave #2450
Los Angeles, CA 90071
18650 MacArthur Blvd Suite 300
Irvine, CA 92612
© 2023 omofoma law  injury & accident lawyers - All Rights Reserved.
Website by:
chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram