How Can I Sue For Wrongful Death in California?


Nov 17, 2023

Tragic deaths due to negligence or carelessness are actually quite common, but wrongful death lawsuits are frequently misunderstood by a majority of Americans. In fact, many surviving family members of wrongful death victims may actually be eligible candidates for filing civil suits to obtain financial compensation. Wrongful death lawsuits apply when an individual dies or is killed as the result of the negligence or misconduct of another (which can include murder). In such instances, although the person is deceased, the victim’s family may still sue for “wrongful death” and recover much-needed financial compensation.

In the sections below, Dordulian Law Group’s Glendale, California, wrongful death lawyers will explain everything you need to know about protecting your rights, fighting for justice, and filing a successful claim after a tragic death due to someone’s negligence (whether an individual or an entity/corporation is responsible).

Understanding California’s Wrongful Death Laws and Statutes

  • How are settlements for California wrongful death paid out?

Insurance companies or at-fault individuals pay wrongful death settlements primarily through the liability coverage of the responsible party. The insurance company may not pay if the amount is above a certain limit, but this depends on the policy of the defendant. In these cases, the defendant will be held personally liable for any excess. The responsible party will be held personally liable for any judgments or settlements if they do not have adequate insurance. This can include legal fees.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has determined that most settlements for wrongful death are not taxable, as long as they are compensatory. Compensation is meant to compensate the survivors for their loss, including pain and suffering.
It is best to consult one of our lawyers before accepting a settlement offer for any type of wrongful death. Dordulian Law Group’s wrongful death team can review any possible tax implications and discuss the litigation process in detail during a free consultation.

  • How much money can you sue for in a wrongful death claim?

The purpose of wrongful death damages is to compensate heirs with the amount they would have received from the deceased if he or she had lived. In a wrongful-death action, the main measure of damages is financial injury. In most cases, the circumstances of the deceased at the time they died are the primary consideration when determining damages. These circumstances include the decedent’s age, earning potential, life span, health before the incident and the circumstances of any family members or representatives who were affected by the incident (such as the loss of income, parental guidance or other financial losses).
Expert analysts at Dordulian Law Group conduct extensive research to determine the amount of compensation you should receive in your case, taking into account all the criteria above to ensure that the settlement is as large as possible for your particular set of circumstances. We investigate every variable that could affect your financial damages, so you can have the confidence and trust in your legal representative to always put your interests first.

  • What specific damages are available in wrongful-death cases?

The damages for wrongful deaths fall into three categories: economic, punitive and non-economic. California law prohibits an heir from claiming punitive damage, since punitive damages can only be awarded for serious or malicious misconduct in order to punish the perpetrator. California allows punitive damages in certain cases under a “survival” action.

Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.30 is the California “survival cause of action”. The survival cause of actions is only available in situations where the victim did not die immediately from their injuries. Even if there is a very short time between the accident, and the eventual death of the decedent, a survival action may still be appropriate.

The statute allows for damages to be recovered if the deceased would have been entitled to them had they lived. Damages for pain, disfigurement, or suffering are excluded.

The survival statute allows an individual to assume the role of a deceased person and to recover damages that they would have received if the deceased had lived. The damages can be medical expenses, lost wages and penalties.

Most wrongful death suits do not fall within the “survival cause of action” and do not therefore include punitive damage. The heirs of the deceased are entitled to sue in order to recover specific economic and noneconomic damages.

In California, economic damages for wrongful death can include (without any cap or limitation):

  • The financial support the deceased would have contributed to the family during their lifetime
  • The loss of gifts or benefits the heirs could have expected to receive from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The reasonable value of household services the deceased would have provided
  • Medical bills and other expenses incurred
  • Value of lost benefits, such as the decedent’s pension or health insurance

Non-economic damages for wrongful death can include (without any cap or limitation):

  • Compensation for the loss of the deceased’s companionship and support
  • Protection
  • Affection
  • Moral support
  • Training and guidance
  • Sexual relations

Important Statistics on U.S. Wrongful Death Incidents

  • Over 90,000 deaths occur every year due to medical malpractice (preventable medical errors)
  • Over 17,000 DUI-related fatalities occur every year, with over 5,000 trucking accidents
  • Over 36,000 slip and fall fatalities happen every year, according to the CDC
  • Nearly 65,000l unintentional poisoning deaths occur every year, according to the CDC

Other common examples of wrongful death incidents can include:

When a tragic death occurs as a result of someone’s negligence or carelessness, filing a civil lawsuit with Dordulian Law Group’s Los Angeles, California, wrongful death attorneys can be the first step towards securing justice.

  • What is California’s statute of limitations for wrongful death?

California’s wrongful death laws have a statute of limitation of two years for most claims. This accrues from the date of death, and you therefore have two years to file your lawsuit. Failing to bring a wrongful death claim within two years may bar your right to financial compensation.

  • Who is eligible to sue on behalf of a deceased person for wrongful death?

California Code of Civil Procedure, Section 377.60, allows family members and personal representatives to file a lawsuit for wrongful death. This can include:

  • Spouses
  • Domestic partners
  • Children
  • The decedent’s grandchildren (if they are deceased as well)
  • Other minor children, including stepchildren, provided that they are dependent on the deceased at least 50% for their financial support

Additional individuals may be entitled to inherit the property of the deceased under California laws on intestate succession. (These laws usually affect assets that would have been passed by the will, and are often assets owned solely by the deceased, in their own name.)

Top-Rated Glendale, California, Wrongful Death Lawyers

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a leading California wrongful death firm led by former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. DLG is comprised of an experienced team of personal injury lawyers with over two decades of experience in wrongful death lawsuits. If you are looking for the best wrongful death attorney in California who will fight to get you the highest cash settlement possible, consider Dordulian Law Group. We have a proven history of obtaining substantial settlements and verdicts on behalf of our clients, and our attorneys have trial experience.

DLG’s clients have obtained over $100,000,000.00 in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Our wrongful death lawyers include an experienced team with a wide range of case knowledge – from medical malpractice to slip and falls to traffic fatalities. At DLG, we have the proven results, knowledge, dedication, and drive to represent you in a wrongful death suit.

How To Decide If You Should Sue For a California Wrongful Death

There are many factors that can determine whether you should file a lawsuit for wrongful death. It’s important to find a wrongful death lawyer who is qualified and can guide you through the complicated laws and statutes. Many people are mistakenly under the impression that they will not be able to file a lawsuit and receive damages (including those whose loved ones were injured in medical malpractice cases, by nefarious corporations, etc.). If you fail to file a lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations, you will likely be ineligible to recover financial compensation for your loved one’s death. Sadly, many people fail to file their wrongful death lawsuit before the California statute of limitations expires.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Dordulian Law Group wants to ensure that all applicable heirs of victims of wrongful deaths receive the justice they deserve and the settlements for which they are entitled. These tragedies often have a profound impact on surviving family members. Although a settlement cannot compensate for the pain and suffering you’ve endured, you deserve a financial damages award in the form of a cash settlement if you or a loved one has been the victim of a fatal wrongful act.

Dordulian Law Group will help you decide the best legal course of action for your situation. We can provide you with a straightforward and honest assessment of your possible wrongful death lawsuit (including an estimate for the settlement which you could be entitled to receive). Do not let your pain and suffering prevent you from contacting a wrongful death lawyer at Dordulian Law Group for a complimentary consultation. Call us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to discuss your case – there’s never any fee for our expert wrongful death lawyer services (you pay nothing until AFTER we secure financial compensation for your case). We will use all of our available resources to fight for your right to justice and the maximum financial damages award you deserve after a wrongful death.



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