When a loved one dies suddenly, it can be incredibly difficult to grieve and handle the loss. If their death was caused by another person, it can often add another layer of anger and resentment. A wrongful death claim may help you move forward with your life after a tragic death.
While financial compensation won’t make you whole again, the money that you recover through a wrongful death lawsuit can help you get justice for your family member. It can also offer a measure of financial stability. Through this type of personal injury case, you can recover compensation for burial expenses, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and other losses.
Based in Northern California, the Kuvara Law Firm represents injury victims in all types of injury claims. Since 1971, we have advocated for clients throughout Sonoma County. If your loved one has died as a result of an accident, reach out to our law office to schedule a free initial consultation with a Santa Rosa car accident lawyer.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under California law, personal injury lawsuits are typically based on a theory of negligence, which is the failure to use the level of care that a reasonable person would use in a similar situation. In some cases, these claims are brought on a theory of gross negligence, recklessness, or even an intentional act.
Wrongful death claims can be brought whenever an individual dies as a result of the wrongful act of another person. This may include:
- Car accidents
- DUI crashes
- Slip and falls
- Boating accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Plane crashes
- Bus accidents
- Nursing home abuse
- Motorcycle accidents
- Pedestrian knock-downs
- Dangerous or defective products
- Bicycle accidents
In short, if the injured person could have filed a personal injury claim if they had survived, their survivors may be able to file a wrongful death claim for their losses.
For example, consider a situation where a young father is killed in a drunk driving accident. His wife and children could file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. Through this type of lawsuit, they can recover compensation for the losses that they have suffered.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In California, wrongful death claims are limited to certain people. This means that you must have a particular relationship with the person who died (known as the decedent) in order to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
While these laws can be complicated, the bottom line is that if a person would have been entitled to inherit from the decedent if he died without a will (intestate), they can probably file a wrongful death claim. This may include:
- Surviving spouses;
- Domestic partners;
- Grandchildren (if the deceased person’s children are also deceased);
- Other minor children (such as stepchildren) who were dependent on the deceased for at least 50% of their financial support; and/or
- Anyone who would have inherited the decedent’s property through intestate succession.
If you have questions about whether you can file a wrongful death lawsuit after the death of your loved one, an experienced Santa Rosa wrongful death attorney can advise you of your rights during a free consultation.
What Compensation Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
In a typical personal injury claim, an injury victim files an insurance claim or lawsuit to recover money for the losses that they have suffered as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence. They may get money for their lost wages, property damage, medical bills, pain and suffering, and any other losses that they suffered.
Wrongful death claims are different because they are brought by survivors (or their personal representatives). The goal of these lawsuits is to compensate family members for their losses, rather than the deceased person’s losses.
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit may include economic damages for:
- The financial support that the decedent would have contributed during their lifetime;
- The loss of gifts or benefits that the heirs could have expected to receive;
- The reasonable value of household services that the decedent would have provided; and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
It may also include non-economic damages for intangible losses such as the loss of the decedent’s:
- Society and companionship;
- Moral support;
- Training and guidance; and
- Sexual relations.
This may also be referred to as loss of consortium. As of 2022, plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit may also seek damages for the decedent’s pain, suffering, or disfigurement.
With a limited exception for homicide, heirs cannot recover punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages are designed to punish a wrongdoer for their reckless or intentional conduct. In most cases, you cannot obtain punitive damages in a wrongful death case.
How Our Attorneys Can Help
After your loved one dies, it can be hard to know what to do next. You may be approached by an adjuster for the insurance company, and asked to give a statement. The insurance adjuster may even offer you a settlement.
Before you say anything or sign any paperwork, it is critical that you talk to a Santa Rosa injury lawyer. Insurance companies are in business to make money. Their goal is never to make sure that you get maximum compensation for your losses.
A wrongful death attorney will take on the insurance company for you. They will handle all communications with the insurer so that you can focus on what is truly important: healing after such a loss.
At the same time, your personal injury lawyers will put together a strong case for full compensation. They’ll investigate the facts of the claim, interview witnesses, request an accident report, and gather documentation such as medical records. They will then research California law to prove that the other party was legally responsible for the accident – and for your losses.
Most personal injury cases are resolved via settlement. The process starts with a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter will lay out your case and make a demand for damages.
This typically starts the negotiation process, where both parties go back and forth until a settlement can be achieved. If the insurer won’t offer you a fair settlement, then your Santa Rosa wrongful death attorney will file a lawsuit. If necessary, they will take the case to trial and ask a jury to return a verdict in your favor.
Studies show that people who have legal representation recover an average of 40% more than people who represent themselves. Because personal injury law firms handle cases on a contingency fee basis, you won’t have to pay anything upfront- and you’ll only pay a fee if they recover money for you.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In California, there is a 2-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. A statute of limitations is a time limit on filing a legal action. For wrongful death cases, the clock begins to run on the date that a loved one dies.
If your family member died as a result of an accident, then you may have a valid wrongful death case. Contact the Kuvara Law Firm to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.
Can I Recover Compensation for My Own Pain and Suffering in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit may sometimes be combined with a survival action. They are two distinct types of personal injury claims.
A wrongful death lawsuit compensates the decedent’s heirs for their losses, while a survival lawsuit lets the heirs sue on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Through a survival action, the estate can recover financial compensation for the injuries that their loved one suffered in the accident before dying, as long as the decedent survived for some period of time.
If you have questions about survival actions and wrongful death claims, call the Kuvara Law Firm to talk to a Santa Rosa wrongful death attorney.
Can I Recover Compensation for My Own Pain and Suffering in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
No. Although grief and anguish are often one of the biggest losses that a person may experience when their loved one dies in an accident, you cannot recover compensation for these losses in a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, you are limited to the economic and non-economic damages that are specifically authorized by California law.
If your family member has died because of another person’s wrongful act, a Santa Rosa wrongful death lawyer can help you decide how to proceed. In Northern California, call the Kuvara Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
Reach Out Today to Learn More
If your loved one has been killed in any type of accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our law firm can guide you through the process, helping you get the money that you need to move forward with your life.
The Kuvara Law Firm represents individuals and families in all types of personal injury matters. We work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Santa Rosa wrongful death lawyer, call us at 707-571-0405 or fill out our online contact form.