Wrongful Death FAQs

Whether you lost a husband in a tragic Northern California freeway accident; or a beloved aunt passed away after her nursing home neglected to give her proper medications, you likely have crucial and urgent questions about wrongful death law. This FAQ section will highlight common questions and answer them in clear language.

Who is eligible to collect in a wrongful death suit?

Typically, a spouse, family member, or loved one of the decedent can collect damages. Step-children, parents of the decedent, dependents of the decedent, adopted children, minors who had been residing in the household, and eligible domestic partners may all recover.

What's the statute of limitations on wrongful death action in California?

Two years from the date of death. Thus, if your wife got killed in a car crash on January 1, 2006, you would have until January 1, 2008 to bring an action to recover damages.

What kinds of damages can you recover?

A. Loss of income, benefits, and other financial contributions

If a third-party's negligence or carelessness causes the death of a loved one, a survivor can get compensated for lost income and other benefits. For instance, if your husband got killed in a construction accident, you should be able to get money for his lost earnings.

B. Loss of support and services

For instance, if your grandfather provided childcare services for a grandchild worth $500 per week, and then he suffered a fatal injury in a freeway collision, his family could demand compensation for the loss of that support/service.

C. Loss of consortium, companionship, love, and protection

The loss of a loved one can powerfully and permanently impact family members and loved ones. The task of quantifying this loss can be quite complicated, as it is obviously very difficult, if not impossible, to put a price on love and companionship. In general, the court will look at how close the decedent was to the person who seeking wrongful death damages as well as the age and health of the survivor. Life expectancy will also come into play. For instance, an elderly grandmother might not have lived more than another 10 or 20 years; whereas a 25 year old mom in the prime of life might have lived for much longer.

What damages may not be recovered?

The pain and suffering and medical bills the decedent incurred before death will not be compensated. However, the executor of the decedent's estate can bring something called a survival action to get compensated for these costs.

Likewise, the mental suffering of the survivor does not constitute grounds for compensation. However, survivors should be able to recover money through the "loss of love and companionship" argument discussed above.

What can I do to protect my rights and ensure the most effective, efficient way of handling a California wrongful death suit?

For a free and confidential consultation, connect with the wrongful death lawyers at Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP. Our firm focuses on California personal injury, and we've helped hundreds of clients discover resourceful, principled, and effective strategies to get compensation for serious losses. Call (800) 900-0863 for more information.

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