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What is a wrongful death lawsuit after a car accident?

In California, the law considers a wrongful death as any death caused by another person by wrongful act or negligence of another person or entity. It is likely that if the injured party were still alive, one would likely file a claim against the person responsible for the harm, in order to be compensated for their damages.

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. It can be brought by the following:

  • The deceased person’s surviving spouse
  • The deceased person’s domestic partner
  • The deceased person’s surviving children
  • If there is no surviving person, then the lawsuit can be brought by anyone “who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession.” That might be the deceased’s parents or siblings.

If they can show they were financially dependent on the decedent, the following can also bring a wrongful death claim in California.

  • The deceased person’s “putative spouse” and children of the putative spouse.**
  • The deceased person’s stepchildren, and
  • The deceased person’s parents.

**A “putative marriage” is an apparently valid marriage, entered into in good faith, on at least the part of one party, but is legally invalid due to a technicality. Because that person believes they were legally married, they are given legal rights to sue. (This is not true in all states)

Common-law marriage is not recognized in California so if one has been living with the decedent for years as husband and wife, they are barred from suing for their partner’s death.

Here are some examples of what families are entitled to sue for in a wrongful death lawsuit:

Funeral and burial expenses;

Medical and hospital bills for decedent’s final injury

Loss of financial support the decedent was contributing to the family prior to death. This is usually in the form of lost income, including the potential income decedent would have earned over the course of one’s lifetime. 

Loss of benefits or gifts family would have received from decedent.

Loss of services provided by the decedent. This would include household services decedent would have performed. Those would include the cost of hiring a housekeeper, cook, handyman or others to replace those services.

Loss of love, affection, moral support, guidance, advice, care, comfort, society, and companionship.

The wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of decedent’s death.

The loss of a loved one due to a sudden and unexpected car accident death can cause an immense emotional and financial hardship on their loved ones. We are here to help you through the legal maze. Our focus is on the bereaved family and getting justice and compensation for your loss. Call the professional and experienced attorneys at Traut Firm.