In California, a “wrongful death” occurs when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company or entity. A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances, including medical malpractice by a medical professional or hospital, automobile, boat and plane accidents, criminal behavior, and exposure to hazardous materials or conditions in a work environment. In California, a wrongful death claim must be brought within two years of the death.
- Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit In order to bring a successful wrongful death cause of action in California, all of the following elements must be present:
- The death of a human being;
- Death caused by another’s negligence , or with intent to cause harm;
- The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
- The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent’s estate.
Who May Sue for a Wrongful Death?
Only certain people are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit in California. The relevant statute, California Code of Civ. Proc. §337.60 et seq, specifically allows the following parties to bring a wrongful death claim:
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse and children
- The deceased person’s domestic partner
- The deceased person’s parents, surviving siblings, or children of deceased siblings
- Grandparents or lineal descendants
- Individuals who were financially dependent on the deceased person at the time of his or her death.
Who May Be Sued for a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought against a wide variety of persons, companies, agencies, and employees. For example, in a wrongful death action involving a car accident the driver at fault may be sued, possibly his employer, the maker of the car (if found to be faulty), the car repairman (if repairs were found to be performed inadequately), and even the roadway maker if the roadway is found to be faulty in anyway. Since you typically only get one chance to name all parties that are at fault for the death, determining who may be at fault and sued is a crucial step in any wrongful death claim.
Immunity for Government Agencies and Employees
In some cases, certain persons or agencies may be immune from a wrongful death lawsuit. That means they cannot be sued for wrongful death. For example, in some situations, government agencies such as railroad companies and their employees might be immune from a wrongful death lawsuit. The process of winning a wrongful death case comes with complex challenges.
If you are considering a wrongful death action for the death of a loved one, please contact Andrew Ritholz, an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer, to discuss all of your legal options.