When a loved one dies prematurely as a result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another person or entity in California, certain family members of the deceased may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim against those who caused the death, as well as their employer in some cases. It is not a prerequisite that criminal charges be filed, or even that any criminal action have occurred, for family members to pursue a successful wrongful death claim. Below is an overview of the process of bringing a wrongful death claim in California.
Determine If You Are a Proper Plaintiff
In California, the surviving spouse and children can bring a wrongful death suit, as can other people who were financially dependent on the deceased. Speak to an attorney about eligibility.
Reach Out to a Wrongful Death Attorney
Because wrongful death cases are very fact-intensive, it is important to speak with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the death or accident to begin investigating the matter.
Your Attorney Will Gather Evidence and Identify Defendants
To win recovery, it will be necessary for your attorney to gather physical, medical, and other evidence to prove a defendant breached a legal duty causing the death of your loved one.
A Lawsuit Will Be Filed Against all Defendants for Damages
After an initial investigation, your attorney will file a lawsuit against the defendants for your economic (loss of financial support, etc.) and non-economic damages (emotional losses).
Pre-Trial Discovery Will Occur
While settlement negotiations are common, a competent attorney must prepare for trial. Pre-trial discovery will occur, and your attorney will gather additional facts to support your case, such as through depositions of witnesses.
Your Case Will Proceed to Trial
If the defendants are still unwilling to enter into a settlement, it may be necessary for your attorney to proceed to trial and ask a jury to hold the defendants accountable for all of the harms and losses they caused.