According to California state law, a wrongful death is “death of a person caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another”. If you have lost a loved one and think you may have a wrongful death claim, an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine whether your claim is valid and the amount of compensation to which you may be entitled.

What is a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death occurs when a person or entity is responsible for the death of another and has no legal justification for causing it. A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit in which the plaintiff seeks monetary compensation for the loss of a loved one.

The claim can be pursued in court by filing a lawsuit against the person or entity who caused the fatality. In some cases a wrongful death claim may be brought against the defendant’s insurance company.

Some acts that may warrant a wrongful death claim include:

Intentional acts

Intentional acts such as murder, manslaughter, and other deliberate or reckless conduct that causes death are considered wrongful acts. Justifiable homicide such as a killing in self-defense is not considered a wrongful act.

Negligent driving

Wrongful death claims can be brought against a person who causes an accidental death due to careless driving such as running a red light, speeding or texting and driving. A negligent driver’s auto liability insurance should cover the claim to his or her policy’s limits.

Failure to maintain safe premises

Whether it is a home or business, property owners have a responsibility to keep their premises safe. Homeowners insurance and property liability insurance usually provide coverage for wrongful death claims that result from negligence in a commercial, residential building or home.

Medical malpractice

A death that is caused by a physician’s failure to diagnose a condition that could have been treated, such as cancer, a surgeon’s error during surgery, or by prescribing an unsafe combination of medication or the wrong medication is considered a wrongful act.

Unsafe products

A product liability lawsuit can result from the loss of a loved one when death is caused by negligence in the design, manufacture, or testing of a product. Unsafe products such as drugs with fatal side effects tainted food, and vehicles or products that are manufactured with a defect are all situations in which a wrongful death claim may be brought.

Toxic substances

Sometimes death results from prolonged exposure to a toxic substance or environmental exposure to chemicals. In this case, consulting with a Fresno wrongful death lawyer who has experience in this area is vital, as you may be up against a large utility company or corporation with bountiful legal resources.

Who can seek compensation?

The following parties are permitted to bring a wrongful death claim in California:

  • the deceased’s surviving spouse
  • the deceased’s registered domestic partner
  • the deceased’s children

If there are no living direct descendants of the person who has passed away, a wrongful death lawsuit may also be brought by anyone who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession, including the deceased’s parents and siblings.

Although “common law marriage” is not legally recognized in California, if the decedent’s partner and/or their children can prove that they were financially dependent on the person who has passed away, they may also be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy. If you think your loved one died as a result of someone’s negligence, enlisting the help of a qualified personal injury lawyer who will guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death claim can make a challenging time easier, and make sure you and your family are taken care of.