When a death is caused by the wrongful acts of another it is often referred to as a wrongful death. This unfortunate type of death may be the basis of a lawsuit brought usually by the surviving family members.
This is called a wrongful death action. The surviving family members are typically the plaintiffs who have lost the company and support of the deceased, and they bring this claim collectively.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
The primary individuals allowed in California by law to seek wrongful death damages are the people who would be the decedent’s heirs. These include:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving children of a deceased child of the decedent
- Domestic partner
If none of the above individuals exist, the next level of family could bring wrongful death claims, including the parents and siblings of the deceased.
What Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The following are types of damages which one may be able to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Lost financial support
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Costs to obtain substitute domestic services
- Benefits that each heir reasonably expected to receive if the decedent had lived
- Reasonable compensation for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, society, solace and moral support of the decedent
Those who have suffered a wrongful death and are seeking wrongful death damages have not suffered a personal injury. Therefore, pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages or other damages that are commonly recovered in a personal injury cause of action will not be available as wrongful death damages. Monetary damages for the grief and sorrow caused by the death of the decedent also cannot be recovered.
How Does a Wrongful Death Occur?
Wrongful death cases can arise from many different situations. Often, they stem from accidents or mishaps involving:
- Use of automobiles, farming implements, industrial machinery, recreational equipment or construction tools
- Exposure to toxic substances such as chemical spills, pollutants and toxic mold
- Unexpected consequences from defective products or prescription drugs
- Medical malpractice in hospitals or doctors’ offices, or
- Violent crimes such as shootings, assaults and robberies.