What Is Wrongful Death in California and Who Can File a Claim

By Ese OmofomaJuly 28, 2023
What is wrongful death in California who can file a claim

In California, wrongful death is defined as a fatal event arising from negligence or wrongful act committed by another individual or entity. It is a harrowing circumstance that brings tremendous pain, leaving the deceased person's family with deep emotional scars, severe financial hardship, and an array of unanswered questions that resonate within their lives.

In these times, Omofoma Law stands as a beacon of support, guiding you through the complex maze of legal processes, ensuring you comprehend your rights fully and know how to exercise them to safeguard your interests and seek justice.

We understand that the process can be confusing for surviving family members. Instead of focusing on a wrongful death suit, you should prioritize remembering the memory of your loved one. Therefore, let us handle your wrongful death case on your behalf. Learn more about filing a wrongful death action below, and give us a call today to schedule a free consultation.

What You Need to Know About California Wrongful Death Claims

A wrongful death claim in the Golden State is fundamentally a civil lawsuit separate from any criminal charges that might be concurrently filed in connection to the death. This distinction is critical as the primary objective of a wrongful death claim is to secure compensation for the deceased's family members or their estate to alleviate the financial burdens caused by their loss.

In the realm of California wrongful death claims, the burden of proof is remarkably lower than that in criminal cases. In the civil lawsuit context, the plaintiff is required to establish their case by a "preponderance of the evidence" rather than the stringent "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard as per the California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) No. 200.

Common Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Common types of wrongful death lawsuits

Wrongful death claims in California can be initiated from diverse situations, each carrying its unique complexities, legal intricacies, and potential compensation. Some of the most common types of wrongful death lawsuits we handle cover the following:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: These involve incidents where a driver's negligence or reckless behavior results in a fatal accident. This category includes car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents. Each case varies in particular, such as the involvement of DUI, speeding, distractions, and other factors contributing to the tragic event.
  • Medical Malpractice: These are cases where a medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider, neglects to provide the standard of care expected in the medical community, leading to a patient's death. This can involve misdiagnosis, surgical errors, birth injuries, prescription errors, or failure to treat a condition properly.
  • Workplace-Related Accidents: These cases involve deaths that occur due to unsafe work conditions, lack of proper training, or failure to follow safety regulations. This can include a wide range of industries, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. Each case requires a thorough investigation into company practices, OSHA standards, and other relevant laws.
  • Product Liability Cases: These are circumstances where a defect in a product leads to a person's death. This could involve faulty automobiles, defective medical devices, dangerous toys, or harmful drugs. Proving product liability often involves demonstrating that the product was designed or manufactured defectively or that there were insufficient warnings about potential dangers.
  • Nursing Home Negligence: These lawsuits involve instances where negligence or abuse by nursing home staff results in the death of a resident. This can include neglecting to provide basic care, failure to administer medication correctly, or physical or emotional abuse. Such cases often necessitate a deep investigation into the nursing home's practices, staff qualifications, and history of complaints.

Regardless of the scenario, the undercurrent remains the same — the devastating loss of a loved one as a result of the negligence or wrongful action of another party. We will do everything we can to ensure that we seek justice for your loved one and your family.

California's "One Action Rule" for Wrongful Death Claims

In an effort to streamline legal processes and avoid undue hardship to defendants, California law incorporates what is known as the "One Action Rule." Under this provision, codified in the California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 377.60-377.62, it is stipulated that only one lawsuit may be filed against a defendant in relation to the wrongful death of a person. This rule is purposefully designed to prevent the same defendant from being inundated with multiple lawsuits arising from the same incident, expediting the process and maintaining fairness in the justice system.

Because only one wrongful death lawsuit is able to be filed, you must make sure that you put your case in the best position possible to be successful. That is where our team can help you. By understanding the most important elements of a wrongful death lawsuit, you will have an easier time deciding what you need to do to advocate for the rights and interests of your family.

The Four Elements of a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The four elements of a California wrongful death lawsuit

A successful wrongful death claim in California hinges on the plaintiff's ability to establish four crucial elements in the suit. They include:


First, the plaintiff must provide compelling evidence that the death of their loved one resulted from the defendant's negligent, careless, or even reckless behavior. In essence, the defendant's actions must fall below the standard of conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person under the same circumstances. It can be challenging to prove negligence, so you need to work with an attorney with experience in this area.

Breach of Duty (Death of Another Person)

Second, the plaintiff must convincingly demonstrate that the defendant had a duty of care towards the deceased, a responsibility which was subsequently breached through their negligent actions. A duty of care implies a legal obligation to guarantee the safety or well-being of others. For example, a doctor must take care of you if we can prove that you had an appointment scheduled or were otherwise in a formal medical setting.


Third, a direct and unbroken link between the defendant's negligent conduct and the subsequent death of the loved one must be established. This causation element is crucial as it directly attributes the fatal outcome to the defendant's actions, making them legally liable for the wrongful death.


Fourth, the plaintiff is required to substantiate that they suffered real, measurable damages due to the wrongful death. These damages can be economic, such as loss of the deceased's income and funeral expenses, or non-economic, like loss of companionship, love, and moral support. We will work with you to ensure that we maximize the value of your wrongful death lawsuit. Count on our team to help you.

People Who Can File a California Wrongful Death Claim

People who can file a California wrongful death claim

In California, there are several parties who have the legal standing to initiate a wrongful death claim:

Surviving Spouse of the Decedent

In California, several parties have the legal standing to initiate a wrongful death claim:

Decedent's Surviving Child or Children

In addition to the surviving spouse, the deceased person's surviving children, irrespective of their age, have the right to file a wrongful death claim in California.

Dependent Minors Living in the Household

Furthermore, dependent minors who resided in the decedent's household for at least six months prior to the death, and were financially dependent on the decedent for at least half of their support, are also granted the legal right to file a wrongful death claim.

Parents of the Decedent

In the unfortunate scenario where the decedent has left behind neither a surviving spouse nor children, the parents of the deceased are legally permitted to file a wrongful death claim.

Other Heirs

Should there be no surviving spouse, children, or parents, other heirs, such as siblings, grandparents, or even stepchildren who were financially dependent on the departed, may be able to file a wrongful death claim.

Personal Representative of the Deceased's Estate

The personal representative of the deceased's estate, typically appointed through the decedent's will or by a court, can also file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate, pursuing damages for the losses incurred due to the wrongful death.

The Heirs' Entitlement to Punitive Damages

Punitive damages in California are awarded to punish the defendant for their egregious conduct and to deter similar behavior in the future. However, in wrongful death cases, punitive damages are not generally awarded, except in specific circumstances where the defendant's actions were particularly reprehensible or intentional. For more detailed information on this subject, please refer to California Civil Code Section 3294.

How Our Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You With Your Case

How our wrongful death lawyer can help you with your case

At Omofoma Law, our dedication and empathy toward the profound pain that follows the wrongful death of a loved one fuels our commitment to guiding our clients through their legal journey. Our lawyers are more than just legal representatives; we are partners in your quest for justice. Our wrongful death lawyer can help you in the following ways:

  • Understanding the Legal Process: The legal intricacies of wrongful death claims can be daunting, especially during the emotional turbulence that follows the loss of a loved one. Our attorneys will simplify the complex legal jargon and guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you fully comprehend what's happening at every stage.
  • Investigation and Evidence Gathering: A thorough investigation forms the backbone of a successful wrongful death claim. Our seasoned attorneys will meticulously collect and scrutinize every piece of evidence, engage expert witnesses if necessary, and build a compelling case on your behalf.
  • Handling Insurance Companies: Negotiating with insurance companies can be formidable as they often aim to minimize payouts. Our experienced lawyers know how to deal with these entities effectively, ensuring you receive fair compensation reflecting your loss's true extent.
  • Calculation of Damages: Properly calculating the economic and non-economic damages you've suffered due to your loss is critical. We will include all aspects, from medical expenses and loss of income to pain and suffering, to ensure you receive a comprehensive compensation package.
  • Litigation: If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached, our lawyers are ready and able to take your case to court. We will passionately argue your case before the jury, advocating for your rights and ensuring your story is heard and understood.
  • Emotional Support and Guidance: At Omofoma Law, we understand that you're not just dealing with a legal case but also with the grieving process. Our team will always treat you with sympathy and respect, providing emotional support and guidance throughout your case.

With our expertise and relentless commitment to your case, our aim is to let you focus on your emotional healing while we handle the legal burdens, providing you with peace of mind during these challenging times.

Call Omofoma Law to Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Experienced California Wrongful Death Lawyer

Call Omofoma Law to schedule a free consultation

Navigating through the tempestuous waters of a wrongful death claim can be a daunting task, one that you don't have to face alone. We invite you to reach out to Omofoma Law today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our experienced California wrongful death lawyer.

Our team is passionately committed to fighting for justice and securing the compensation you deserve, helping bring some measure of closure and financial stability to your life in these challenging times.

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Los Angeles, CA
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(213) 455 4050
Orange County
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(213) 455 4050
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Los Angeles, CA 90071
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Irvine, CA 92612
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