When a person is killed by the careless (“negligent”) or deliberate conduct of another person, his or her survivors have the right to bring a lawsuit to recover monetary compensation for all of the damages arising from the death of their loved one.
Only the persons named in the California Code of Civil Procedure can file an action for wrongful death. These include the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and issue of deceased children. If there are no surviving issue of the decedent, the persons, including the surviving spouse or domestic partner, who would be entitled to inherit the property under the laws of intestate succession (intestate succession determines who gets a person’s assets if he or she dies without a will). A woman who believed in good faith that her marriage to the decedent was legal and valid, but it was not due to some technicality—such as the decedent never obtained a divorce from a previous spouse but said that he did—is considered a “putative spouse” and is entitled to the same share of the deceased person’s estate as if she were the legal spouse of the decedent. A minor who has lived in the decedent’s house for 180 days prior to the decedent’s death and was dependent upon the decedent for one-half or more of his or her support may sue for his or her loss.
The damages that may be awarded in a wrongful death case are those that, under all of the circumstances of the case, “may be just.” Only damages for “pecuniary” losses can be recovered. This includes not only such things as lost wages, financial support, loss of household services, and funeral and burial expenses, but also such things as the loss of the decedent’s personal services, advice, and training the heirs would have received from the decedent, compensation for lost comfort, society, and affection, as well as damages for companionship, care, and protection. However, damages for mental and emotional distress, including grief and sorrow, are not recoverable.
If a loved one has been killed due to the carelessness of another person, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately so he or she can start working right away to obtain all the monetary compensation you are entitled to.