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What You Should Know About California Wrongful Death Claims

What You Should Know About California Wrongful Death Claims

by | Dec 26, 2022 | Car Accidents, Personal Injury

What You Should Know About California Wrongful Death Claims

Coping with the loss of a loved one is among the most difficult things anyone can face. When a wrongful death accident is the cause of this loss, it can be especially challenging to endure the additional stress caused by these circumstances. While the thought of filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party may seem daunting, it is often an effective way for mourning family and friends to get the justice and compensation they need to heal. We can help

Wrongful Death Accidents in California

In 2019, Los Angeles reported well over 200 deaths caused by car accidents alone. The number of potential claims skyrockets when you consider the fatalities caused by other types of wrongful death accidents, like slip and falls, medical malpractice, and abuse. There are numerous types of incidents that qualify under California’s wrongful death law, but it can be challenging to determine how to proceed when you are grieving a friend or family member.

The law in California provides recourse for surviving loved ones to sue the negligent or reckless party who caused the fatal accident by filing a wrongful death claim. Generally, a person has two years from the date of their family member’s death to initiate legal action against the at-fault party. If you are unsure about your options or need guidance to move forward with the legal process, the Law Offices of Michael D. Payne can help you prepare for whatever comes next in your wrongful death claim.  You can contact us here

Liability in California Wrongful Death Claims

It may be strange to consider that a deceased victim in a wrongful death claim can be found liable for the accident that caused their death, but this is sometimes the case. That’s because wrongful death claims are fault-based. An accident that leads to fatal injury should understandably be carefully evaluated to determine who is at fault for the tragedy. However, it is often painful for grieving family and friends to witness the other party attempt to blame someone who is not alive to defend themselves.

Therefore, anyone who initiates a claim must be prepared to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their loved one’s death. Building a solid case is easier with assistance from a legal expert like Michael D. Payne. His extensive experience and knowledge earned him an appearance on CNN, and this expertise is what you need on your side during a wrongful death lawsuit.

To make matters even more complex, California uses comparative negligence when determining fault in wrongful death accidents. This means that more than one party can be found liable for the accident, and any percentage of fault that lies with the deceased victim will decrease the compensation awarded.

Consider this example:

Nicole’s husband, Mark, was fatally injured in a car accident on the San Bernardino Freeway on his way home after work. During the course of the wrongful death case that Nicole initiated against the other driver, it was determined that both Mark and the other driver were at fault. The other driver changed lanes abruptly and hit Mark’s car, but Mark was also speeding, making them both partially responsible for the accident.

A percentage is applied based on the proportion of fault held by each party. In Nicole and Mark’s example, the judge found Mark to be 25% at fault, and the other driver was held 75% at fault. This is significant because Mark’s share of the liability decreased the compensation that Nicole was awarded for the wrongful death claim. Another example to illustrate the compensation offset is as follows:

Victoria’s mother, Gloria, was involved in a slip and fall accident at their local grocery store in Riverside. Gloria suffered a traumatic brain injury and passed away shortly after the incident. The court determined that Gloria was 10% at fault for the accident because she was running through the store when she slipped, and the store was 90% at fault because they neglected to fix a leaky pipe that caused repeated wet floor hazards. Victoria was awarded $150,000, which was reduced by Gloria’s liability of 10%, leaving $135,000 in compensation.

Compensation and Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

California law also dictates who may bring a lawsuit against a negligent party. Domestic partners, spouses, adult children, and a few other individuals are eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Death takes an enormous emotional and financial toll on surviving family and friends, which makes thorough consideration of the outcome of a wrongful death claim crucial.  We will use our decades of experience to carefully consider the details of your case and help you decide how to prepare for the road ahead.  Call or contact us for your fee consultation.

When calculating compensation and potential damages, the court will likely consider both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:

  • Loss of income or financial support from the deceased person
  • Funeral expenses and burial costs
  • Loss of potential benefits that may have been provided by the deceased

Non-economic damages are often more difficult to quantify because they are not usually associated with a set dollar amount. These damages commonly include the loss of:

  • Companionship and support
  • Affection
  • Guidance
  • Protection

While surviving loved ones, as plaintiffs, cannot receive non-economic damages for their own pain and suffering, they can seek an award for the deceased victim’s pain and suffering. The court can award an amount for non-economic damages that is within reason based on the evidence presented, so creating a compelling argument is a must in order to receive this type of compensation.

If you have lost a loved one due to the wrongful act of someone else, you may be able to receive the justice and compensation you deserve by filing a wrongful death claim. The Law Offices of Michael D. Payne have helped clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, and surrounding localities receive favorable outcomes in their wrongful death claims. You will not be responsible for any legal fees unless your lawsuit is successful. Call 888-964-1530 or visit to schedule a free consultation.