When someone is injured due to the negligence of another party, they have the right to file a personal injury claim. But what happens when the victim dies? In these circumstances, California law allows certain family members to file a wrongful death claim to recover damages.

California Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Cases

The statute of limitations is a regulation that limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit for a particular reason in California. The California statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is typically two years from the date of a death caused by the negligence of another.

This statute is modified by the delayed discovery rule. This rule allows the statute of limitations to be extended when the litigant is unaware of wrongful conduct before the statute of limitations runs out. Anyone using the discovery rule must not be willfully ignorant and act quickly after discovering the wrongful action.

California Wrongful Death Laws

Before filing a wrongful death lawsuit in California, you need to be familiar with the following laws and regulations.

  • Who may file? To file a lawsuit for wrongful death, you must be a surviving spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent or minor dependent who lived in the home of the deceased. Anyone who qualifies to inherit by intestate succession may file if there are no surviving potential plaintiffs, as outlined in the previous sentence.
  • Damages. You may potentially collect damages for medical bills related to the injury or illness that caused the death, funeral expenses, money the deceased would have earned had they lived, loss of companionship and loss of support if you are a dependent.
  • Punitive damages. California only allows punitive damages in the rare situation where the victim died of felony homicide and the defendant was convicted of that crime.
  • Medical malpractice caps. California only caps wrongful death damages when they are caused by medical malpractice. Under a law passed in 2022, non-economic damages are capped at $600,000, and that cap value will increase by $50,000 at the start of the year until it reaches $1 million.

Wrongful Death Settlement Considerations

Most wrongful death cases end in a settlement, even if they go to trial. While settlements aren’t regulated by the same rules that regulate lawsuits, California also has regulations for them.

The insurance company must fully pay a settlement within 30 days of both parties agreeing. The insurance company must pay interest on the unpaid settlement if it does not.

California also regulates attorney fees in some situations. Under a newly passed law, if a wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, contingency fees for San Francisco wrongful death lawyers are limited to 25% if the claim is settled before filing a lawsuit and 33% after that.

If the case goes to trial, wrongful death lawyers may petition the court for a higher contingency fee.

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personal injury,

Last Update: June 27, 2024