California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

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A personal injury occurs whenever one party’s negligence or misconduct results in physical harm and economic losses to another party. If the victim does not survive, this is called a wrongful death, and the victim’s family could pursue a wrongful death claim in lieu of the personal injury claim the victim may have filed if they had lived. It can be incredibly difficult to imagine handling a complex civil suit in the emotional aftermath of an unexpected death in the family, and an experienced Sacramento wrongful death attorney is the ideal resource to consult in this situation.

Every type of civil case is beholden to a statute of limitations, a time limit in which the victim may file their civil action. If the victim does not file their case within the applicable statute of limitations, they could lose their ability to recover damages. In the state, the wrongful death statute of limitations is two years, starting on the date of the death. If the cause of death isn’t immediately determined, the statute of limitations begins on the date the victim’s family discovers the cause of death.

California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

It is always best to begin your wrongful death claim as soon as possible for the best chances of success. This type of claim shares many procedural similarities with a personal injury claim, with a few notable exceptions. While a personal injury case seeks compensation for the victim’s losses, a wrongful death suit seeks recovery for the victim’s family. An experienced attorney is invaluable for ensuring you meet the applicable statute of limitations for your case and building a strong foundation on which to set the rest of your wrongful death claim. Any issues with preliminary case filings can complicate an already challenging series of legal proceedings. Your attorney can help you avoid common mistakes people make when trying to manage their wrongful death claim. Success with a wrongful death claim has the same fundamental prerequisites as succeeding with a personal injury action. First, you must identify the party responsible for the death and prove they are directly responsible for it. Additionally, you must prove the full scope of the economic damages resulting from the situation. In the state, the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim may seek the following:
  • Compensation for the family’s financial losses, such as the income the deceased can no longer provide. An experienced attorney can help the client calculate how much the deceased could have earned until retirement.
  • Lost value of household services. A spouse and/or parent losing their partner could completely upturn their usual schedule in various ways and cause the surviving family to incur far greater household expenses.
  • Pain and suffering compensation for the emotional distress resulting from the death. There is no cap on pain and suffering compensation for most wrongful death claims filed in the state. An experienced attorney is a valuable source of guidance for determining a suitable amount to seek with your claim.
  • Funeral and burial costs.
If the victim did not immediately die from their injuries and their estate incurred damage from the incident in question, a survival action would enable the family to seek compensation for the personal injury damage the victim could have sought in a personal injury claim if they had survived. Two years may seem like more than sufficient time to file your wrongful death claim, but it is always best to start your legal proceedings as soon as possible. This is especially true if your claim involves unclear liability, multiple defendants, or claims of comparative fault. In addition, the sooner you connect with an experienced legal team you can trust with your case, the better your chances are of maximizing your final compensation.

FAQs About California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Q: How Soon Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

A: State law provides a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death actions, and this time limit begins on the date of the death in question. This may seem like more than enough time to file your claim, but it is always best to start your civil claim proceedings as soon as possible after an injury occurs for the best chances of recovering as fully as the law allows.

Q: Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?

A: If the deceased person did not have an estate plan in place, the law of intestate succession would determine eligibility to file a wrongful death claim. This will usually fall to their surviving spouse or partner, followed by surviving adult children and other blood relatives. However, if the deceased named a personal representative in a legally enforceable estate plan, this party would be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on the deceased’s behalf.

Q: How Much Is a Wrongful Death Claim Worth?

A: It can sound difficult or even insensitive to assign a monetary value to the death of a loved one, but it is understandable and prudent to seek maximum compensation under state law if any party bears fault for the death of a family member. The money your family obtains cannot return your lost loved one, but it can make adjusting to your new circumstances much easier. An experienced attorney can help you ensure a defendant’s accountability for the death of your loved one and hold them appropriately responsible for the economic impact of their actions.

Q: What Can an Attorney Do in My Wrongful Death Case?

A: Success with any wrongful death action requires proving that the defendant named in the suit is directly responsible for causing the death in question. This may sound simple enough, but the average person with no professional legal training would likely struggle to gather the evidence needed to firmly prove fault for the death of your loved one. Therefore, hiring an experienced attorney increases your chances of success with your wrongful death action and is likely to yield much more compensation than you could have secured on your own.

The Kreeger Law Firm understands the emotional distress any wrongful death can cause, and our goal is to help you navigate the complex legal proceedings ahead of you and your family with confidence and peace of mind. Contact us today for more information about how we can assist you with your wrongful death claim.