Wrongful death and personal injury claims are both civil actions. However, although they have similarities, they are very different claims. Below, our attorneys explain what wrongful death means and how we can help you seek compensation.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

A wrongful death claim is a civil action. Certain surviving members can bring this action if their loved one dies due to someone else’s negligent acts or omissions. In other words, they’re filing on behalf of the victim who can no longer seek justice for themselves.

Types of Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims include:  

Examples of Wrongful Death

There are many ways for wrongful deaths to occur. Examples of wrongful death include: 

  • Fatal head trauma  
  • Electrocution at work  
  • Workplace explosions 
  • Hit-and-runs 
  • Heavy truck collisions 
  • Delayed diagnosis

If the victim survives, they may have a personal injury case. What makes it a wrongful death claim is that the victim dies from the severity of their injuries.

Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim?

CA’s wrongful death statutes mean that only certain individuals can make a wrongful death claim. You can file a wrongful death suit if you are a personal representative, or immediate family member including: 

  • Surviving spouse 
  • Child  
  • Domestic partner 
  • Grandchild

Others, such as parents, may also have a wrongful death claim.

Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims

There are time limits for making any type of civil claim in CA. Claims for wrongful death damages are no exception. In CA, you normally only have two years from the date of death to bring a wrongful death claim.

Young woman kneeling before grieving senior woman and comforting her after bereavement

Beyond this date, the courts may refuse to hear your claim. The at-fault party will also, most likely, challenge the claim on the grounds that it’s time-barred.

Proving a Wrongful Death Claim in CA

Proving wrongful death after a fatal accident means proving four things.  

  • The defendant owed the deceased a “duty of care”. This is a duty to behave with reasonable skill and care, with regard for others’ safety. 
  • The defendant breached this duty by acting negligently or deliberately.  
  • The deceased suffered fatal injury after an accident.  
  • The defendant’s acts or omissions caused the deceased’s death.

Evidence you may rely on includes medical records, witness testimonies, and photographs. Expert evidence may also be required.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

A personal injury claim is a type of civil negligence claim. It arises when someone’s actions, or their failure to act, causes another person physical harm.

Types of Personal Injury Claims

Every personal injury claim is completely unique. However, common personal injury cases include: 

  • Accidents at work  
  • Medical malpractice  
  • Car accidents 
  • Motor vehicle accidents  
  • Defective products 
  • Slip and fall accidents

A personal injury claim is not a criminal case. However, in some instances, there may also be a criminal case brought against the defendant e.g. for a hit-and-run.

Examples of Personal Injuries

Common personal injuries include: 

  • Dog bites 
  • Broken bones 
  • Head trauma 
  • Back injuries 
  • Muscle and soft tissue injuries 
  • Burn injuries

More severe injuries include nerve damage, paralysis, limb loss, and brain injuries.

Who Can Make a Personal Injury Claim in CA?

You can make a personal injury claim if someone else’s negligent or careless actions caused you harm. In other words, the defendant’s actions – or failure to act – harmed you.

What happens if you’re injured but there’s no one to blame? Sometimes accidents simply do happen. There’s not always someone at fault. In such cases, you may not have a civil compensation claim.

Exceptions may apply for e.g. some workplace accidents and workers’ comp claims.

How to Prove a CA Personal Injury Claim

To make a successful personal injury claim, you must prove four things. 

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care.  
  • The defendant acted negligently, carelessly, or recklessly. 
  • You suffered an injury.  
  • There is a link between the defendant’s careless actions and your injury. Meaning, they are responsible – or at least mostly responsible – for your injuries.

Proving a personal injury claim means gathering evidence such as: 

  • Medical records 
  • Pictures or video footage from the accident scene  
  • Witness statements  
  • Receipts and other records to prove losses e.g. wage loss

Your attorney can explain what evidence you need, based on the facts of your case.

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims

As with wrongful death claims, there are deadlines for filing injury lawsuits.

You only have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit, in most cases. After this date, you could lose your right to seek compensation.

There may be different time limits for certain claims. For example, you may only have a year from the date of injury to make a medical malpractice claim.

Wrongful Death vs. Personal Injury: Key Differences

We’ve covered personal injury and wrongful death suits. Hopefully, the similarities and differences are much clearer. Here is a summary of the major differences between these actions for your reference.

Who Can Sue

In personal injury claims, the injured party files the lawsuit. After the death of a loved one, you can sue if you are: 

  • The deceased’s personal representative; or  
  • An immediate family member e.g. parent, child, or spouse.

Time Limits for Filing Claims

You must normally bring a wrongful death claim within two years of the death. The death date is when the “clock” starts ticking. For personal injury claims, you have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.

Personal injury lawyer in background stethoscope laptop and gavel in foreground

Your attorney can explain if other time limits may apply in your case.

Types of Compensation Available

In wrongful death claims, surviving family members can claim: 

  • Economic damages: Loss of financial support, burial and funeral expenses, medical bills, household services, loss of financial gifts and inheritances. 
  • Non-economic damages: The deceased’s pain and suffering. Loss of affection, companionship, and support.

Personal injury victims can also claim economic and non-economic damages. However, they’re not claiming for e.g. burial or funeral expenses. They can instead claim for wage loss, loss of earning potential, and their own, related financial losses.

The Role of a California Wrongful Death Lawyer

Chances are you’ve never required the services of an accidental death lawyer before. Therefore, you might be unsure what to expect and how they can help you. To help, here’s an overview of how a California wrongful death attorney can assist.

Do I Need a California Wrongful Death Attorney?

If someone else’s negligence causes your loved one’s death, then yes. You should strongly consider hiring an attorney. Here’s why. 

  • Insurance companies will look for any reason to reduce your compensation, or avoid settling at all. An experienced attorney knows how to negotiate with insurers and protect your legal interests.  
  • It’s not always easy to identify who, exactly, you should sue. Your lawyer, however, will use legal principles to determine the parties responsible. They will sue everyone at fault to maximize your chances of securing compensation. 
  • Valuing a claim, especially a wrongful death claim, is challenging. Experienced wrongful death attorneys know how to evaluate all possible losses to properly value your claim. 

No amount of damages can make up for losing a loved one. But you do have economic – and non-economic – losses to consider. Our wrongful death law firm wants to help you get the maximum compensation you’re entitled to.

Can an Accidental Death Lawyer Help Personal Injury Victims?

Wrongful death claims and personal injury claims are closely linked. They are both based on principles of negligence. As such, our wrongful death attorneys can help personal injury victims, too.

Our team works together to get the best results for our clients. Contact us to discuss a personal injury or wrongful death claim in CA.

How Does the Claims Process Work?

Whether it’s a wrongful death or personal injury claim, it starts with a case evaluation. If we determine that you have a case, we will identify who we can sue. We will gather evidence, value what your case is worth, and file a lawsuit.

Should a settlement offer be forthcoming, we’ll help you decide whether it’s a fair offer. If there’s no fair offer or the at-fault party won’t settle, then we can take the case to trial. Our team will walk you through the trial process, should this be necessary.

In all cases, it can take at least a few weeks for a settlement check to arrive. Your lawyer will explain the timeline in more detail as it relates to your case.

California Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Attorneys | The May Firm

Whether you need a personal injury or wrongful death attorney, call the May Firm. Our experienced lawyers truly care about righting wrongs and bringing negligent parties to justice. We understand what it takes to make a successful personal injury or accidental case. And we will use this deep knowledge to your advantage.

Wrongful death actions and personal injury claims are complex. However, with us the right lawyers on your side, they don’t need to be stressful. We don’t charge anything unless we win your case – there’s no risk in contacting us.

Call now or reach out online to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting. If you have a case, we can discuss your legal rights and next steps.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and may not represent the current law in the recipient’s jurisdiction. The article should not be interpreted as professional legal advice from The May Firm or the individual author, nor is the information intended to substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. The article, nor any of the information included, should not be used to act or refrain from acting without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.