About California Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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Common Questions About Filing a Long Beach Wrongful Death Lawsuit

When a loved one is tragically lost due to a wrongful death, surviving family members may take legal recourse to hold the at-fault party accountable. Additionally, the family may seek compensation for their loss, but it’s crucial to understand the systems in place to accomplish this. Here is what to know about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, such as eligible plaintiffs, recoverable damages, the legal process, and if hiring a Long Beach wrongful death lawyer is necessary.


What Kind of Case Qualifies for a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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While personal injury claims address damages suffered by a living victim, wrongful death lawsuits hold negligent parties accountable so that the estate or surviving dependents of the deceased person may recover damages.

“Wrongful death” falls under tort law, which deals with civil lawsuits for unintentional wrongs that cause harm to another person. This is distinct from criminal law, which focuses on punishing intentional wrongdoing. 

The most common wrongful deaths involve cases like car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents.

In a case where a wrongful death occurs due to another party’s negligence (carelessness that breaches a duty of care), a lawsuit can be filed to recover damages, such as medical bills, funeral expenses, or pain and suffering.

The primary goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is to provide financial compensation to the deceased’s family members for their losses. If you have experienced similar circumstances, your case may be eligible for a wrongful death suit. Consulting with a Long Beach wrongful death lawyer can clarify these details and offer professional guidance.


How Is Fault Proven in a Wrongful Death Claim?

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Similar to personal injury cases, the concept of negligence determines whether or not a party is guilty in a wrongful death case. 

Ultimately, this refers to a failure to exercise reasonable care, resulting in wrongful conduct to another person. While some wrongful death cases may involve intentional acts, the core principle revolves around the defendant’s negligent actions.

To establish negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following four elements:

  1. Duty of Care: A legal obligation to act with reasonable care to avoid causing harm to another
  2. Breach of Duty: Failing to exercise reasonable care through reckless actions
  3. Causation: A direct link of the breach causing a loved one’s death
  4. Damages: Financial losses and/or emotional distress resulting from the accident

If these elements are successfully demonstrated, an eligible plaintiff (a family member or the estate) can file a wrongful death claim, and the court may award financial compensation. Legal representation is not mandatory but will prove valuable, as the case proceedings can be complicated.


Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims?

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The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is typically limited to certain classes of beneficiaries who suffered a demonstrable loss due to a loved one’s death; this accounts for both emotional and financial loss.

In California, the law typically prioritizes immediate family members, or primary beneficiaries such as spouses, children, and domestic partners of the deceased, as they are presumed to have suffered the most significant loss.

Dependent family members, or secondary beneficiaries, may also file a wrongful death claim. This could consist of parents, grandchildren, and siblings if they can establish they were financially dependent on the deceased. Proof of such dependency could include contributions made by the deceased towards their living expenses or education.

Beyond close relatives, non-traditional dependents, like stepchildren, non-married partners, or even a putative spouse (those who believed they were married but whose marriage was invalid), may also stand to file a wrongful death claim. This includes individuals who can provide clear evidence of financial support received from the deceased, such as alimony payments or child support.


What Is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in CA?

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Like other cases that fall under tort law, wrongful death action is also subject to the state’s statute of limitations, which imposes a strict timeframe for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. 

In California, the statute of limitations is two years from when the death occurred, but this may vary based on case circumstances. For instance, if the cause of death is initially unclear, the window can extend from the date of death to one year from the date of discovery.

Because wrongful death cases can involve complex legal issues and exceptions, it’s important to consult with a local Long Beach wrongful death lawyer to ensure a timely filing. Working with a law firm not only protects a case’s validity but also alleviates stress from grieving families.


What Can Be Compensated in a Wrongful Death Case?

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Wrongful death claims may account for various losses to cover financial and emotional needs suffered by surviving family members. Common examples include:

  • Medical costs (victim’s medical treatment related to the accident)
  • funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of lifetime income and other benefits
  • Loss of household support
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Property damage (such as personal items destroyed in a car accident)

Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit can be distributed in a lump sum settlement or a structured settlement. 

A lump sum settlement option provides the surviving family members with a single, upfront payment of the total awarded damages, whereas a structured settlement distributes the awarded damages through a series of periodic payments over a set timeframe (months or years). 


Should I Hire a Long Beach Wrongful Death Attorney?

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In the wake of a loved one’s passing, navigating the legal system will not just be overwhelming, but the processes will also be very complex. While hiring a wrongful death lawyer is not required, doing so will offer many benefits, such as:

  • Accurate Case Evaluation: Assess the specific circumstances of the death and determine the legal merits of a wrongful death claim
  • Offer Practical Options: Explain the legal process, potential recoverable damages, and the most advantageous way to pursue the wrongful death claim
  • Case Security: Legal expertise to gather evidence, identify liable parties, and construct a compelling case
  • Maximize Settlement: Effectively negotiate with the insurance company for the maximum compensation to secure the best possible outcome
  • Access Expert Network: Access to a network of trusted professionals, including medical professionals and financial experts, who can assist in calculating damages

By partnering with an experienced Long Beach wrongful death lawyer, surviving family members can ensure their rights are protected and maximize the chances of a successful outcome.


Contact Belmont Accident Lawyers

outside of City of Hall in Long Beach, CA

We understand that losing a loved one is a deeply personal and challenging experience. Our Long Beach personal injury law firm specializes in wrongful death claims, and we are committed to providing compassionate support and legal expertise during this difficult time. 

When you are ready to talk, we are here to listen.

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