Suing for Wrongful Death Damages in California


California Wrongful Death Attorney

Dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one can be devastating. At Wakeford Law, we know that the process of grieving can be extensive. But we also want to help families who have lost loved ones due to another party’s negligence or reckless behavior. Our wrongful death lawyers will hold the negligent party responsible and help you move forward.

If you recently lost a loved one in an accident, or as a result of another party’s carelessness or wrongdoing, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. While a wrongful death lawsuit California cannot bring back your loved one or ever fully repair the damage that has been done, by seeking wrongful death damages, you can hold the at-fault party responsible and can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and lost companionship.

A compassionate California wrongful death attorney at our firm can speak with you today about your case.

Examples of Rear-End Accident Results from The Wakeford Law Firm


A negligent driver rear-ended our client who suffered a significant back injury resulting in pre-trial settlement of $750,000.


Our client was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a low-speed impact resulting in back surgery. Settlement of his third-party liability and his underinsurance claims resulted in total settlement of $565,000.


Our client suffered a coccyx injury after being thrown from her bicycle when a car swerved into the bike lane and rear-ended her on her bicycle. The case resolved during litigation at mediation with a settlement of $150,000.


Our client was rear ended by a bus and suffered back injuries. Result: $125,000.

What is a California Wrongful Death Claim?

The California wrongful death statute governs wrongful death cases in the state. You might be wondering: what is a wrongful death claim, and why should I work with a personal injury law team on a wrongful death case? You may have searched terms like “wrongful death damages California” or “wrongful death California” looking for answers. In short, wrongful death lawsuits are similar to personal injury lawsuits in many ways. Additionally, personal injury attorneys often specialize in both personal injury and wrongful death claims.

How is a wrongful death lawsuit similar to a personal injury claim? In short, both personal injury law and wrongful death law allow an injured person to hold the responsible party accountable financially for his or her injuries. In personal injury law, the injured person brings the claim himself. However, the injured person cannot bring the claim himself because the injuries were fatal.

Wrongful death law recognizes the right of another person to step into the shoes, so to speak, of the deceased in order to seek compensation on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death law also allows a representative of the deceased to seek damages for losses affecting the deceased’s family, such as loss of companionship.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death Damages in California?

Under California law, any of the following persons may be eligible to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Surviving spouse;
  • Domestic partner;
  • Children;
  • Persons dependent on the deceased, such as a putative spouse, putative children of the putative spouse, and stepchildren;
  • Parents of the deceased; and
  • Personal representative of the deceased.

Other parties may be eligible to bring a claim, but the law is complex, and you should speak with a California wrongful death lawyer about your case.

Statute of Limitations for Seeking Wrongful Death Damages in California

One important distinction between personal injury claims and wrongful death claims is when the clock on the statute of limitations begins “ticking.” In a personal injury claim, the clock starts “ticking” when the party suffers the injury. Differently, in a wrongful death lawsuit, the clock starts “ticking” on the date of the deceased’s death. The clock starts ticking on the date of death even if the deceased survived with serious injuries for quite some time before succumbing to those injuries. You have two years from the date of death to file a suit.

Types of Damages in a California Wrongful Death Claim

In suing for damages, you may be able to receive compensation for:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Lost wages;
  • Future wages;
  • Funeral and burial expenses; and
  • Loss of companionship of the deceased.

What Kinds of Cases Typically Result in Wrongful Death Actions

There are a number of tort lawsuits that can result after the untimely death of a person. These include:

  • Medical malpractice. Medical malpractice is one of the most common reasons wrongful death lawsuits are filed. When a doctor makes a serious and avoidable mistake and this results in their patient’s death, they can be sued for wrongful death under the medical malpractice statute.
  • Product liability. Sometimes dangerous or defective products result in serious injuries and death to those who used them. Product liability lawsuits are different than most other kinds of tort cases. Plaintiffs do not need to show that the company was necessarily negligent. They only need to show that the individual was using their product as intended and that resulted in death or a major injury.
  • Traffic accidents. If a negligent driver takes the life of another driver on the road, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit against that driver. This will generally involve circumventing the insurance claims process and suing the driver’s assets directly.
  • Premises liability. Slip and fall accidents don’t generally result in death, but other kinds of premises liability do. For instance, negligent security can result in death if a proprietor does not take adequate care to ensure that their patrons are safe. “Attractive nuisance” cases also are sometimes wrongful death claims. For instance, if a neighbor leaves their pool unattended and a child falls into it and drowns, the family might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against them.
  • Intentional torts. In some cases, the individual who caused the death or injury didn’t do so carelessly, they did so intentionally. In these cases, they may be brought to trial by the state but this doesn’t preclude the family from suing them in civil court as well.

Punitive Damages

Unlike other kinds of damages that are meant to compensate victims and family members, punitive damages are awarded when the defendant’s negligence is especially egregious. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for their recklessness. These can be awarded in some traffic accident cases. For instance, if the individual was driving drunk or racing on the road, a jury may award the plaintiff punitive damages to punish the defendant.

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney California

If you need help considering your options for a wrongful death claim, a California wrongful death attorney can assist you. Contact Wakeford Law today.

What’s the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in California?

Two years. From the date of the deceased’s death you have two years to file a lawsuit. That’s why important to act quickly.

Do I Really Need a Lawyer?

You could try to navigate the claim on your own, but these are complex matters and it can be difficult. An attorney will account for things you may have not considered, and they’ll be able to help ensure you’re treated fairly throughout the process. And if a trial becomes necessary, they will be prepared for the case.

How Do I Know I Have a Valid Claim?

Many attorneys, including the Wakeford Law Firm, will evaluate your case for free and give you an upfront and educated opinion about your claim.

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