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California Wrongful Death: Burden Of Proof, Filing Claims, And Deadlines

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

What do You Need For A Successful Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit differs from a personal injury lawsuit in several ways. Instead of an injured individual filing a lawsuit against the liable party, the family of a deceased person files a lawsuit to seek compensation for their losses following their loved one's death.

Let's talk about wrongful death laws in California and how they can apply to your case.

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The following people can file a California wrongful death claim:

  • The deceased person's surviving spouse or domestic partner

  • The decedent's children

  • Stepchildren who are reliant on the decedent

  • Ex-spouse (if the decedent's ex-spouse and children were financially dependent on them, they would be entitled to a share of the estate)

  • Parents of the deceased

  • A minor who had lived with the decedent for at least 180 days and was reliant on them for half of their support

The people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit are determined mainly by the person who died, directly related to them, and financially dependent on them.

That said if you're having trouble regarding your eligibility to file claims, consult with one of our prescreened Top Rated Personal Injury Attorneys in Los Angeles.

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What Do You Need To Prove In A California Wrongful Death Claim?

To be compensated for your losses, you and your California Wrongful Death Lawyer need to prove the following:

  • A family member (or someone you are dependent on) has passed away

  • The death was caused by carelessness, negligence, or malicious intent

  • As a result of the death, the surviving family is financially affected

A California Wrongful Death Attorney may seek monetary and non-monetary damages on behalf of the victim's family and dependents.

That said, your lawyer must prove that the other party was negligent or careless, causing the accident. So, ensure you work with your lawyer to build a solid case and present enough evidence.

What Are The Payable Damages For Wrongful Death In California?

Wrongful death lawsuits exist to compensate family members for the losses they have suffered due to the untimely death of a loved one. In California, two types of damages can be awarded in a wrongful death case:

1. Economic Damages

Economic damages are granted to assist families with demonstrable financial expenditures incurred (or projected to be incurred) due to their loved one's untimely death.

A family member (or a qualified beneficiary) who brings a wrongful death lawsuit in California may be able to receive the following economic damages:

  • The family and their beneficiaries would have received financial assistance if the victim had not been killed.

  • Compensation for the loss of any income or benefits that the victim's family member might have received

  • Costs of a funeral and burial, including travel and lodging

  • Medical expenses incurred between the accident and the victim's death are reimbursed

  • Value of home services that the victim would have provided (i.e., household work, child care, etc.)

That said, economic damages are much easier to get because it's relatively easy to prove them. You'll need receipts, invoices, and other documentation that proves your family lost income and support because someone in your family died.

2. Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate families for losses that cannot be quantified in monetary terms. These are the physical, emotional, and psychological injuries that family members suffer after a loved one passes away.

The amount of non-economic losses might vary significantly from case to case because these damages are difficult to value and differ from person to person.

A family member who brings a wrongful death lawsuit in California may be able to obtain the following non-economic damages:

  • Love, companionship, comfort, care, aid, protection, affection, society, and moral support

  • Enjoyment of sexual relations

  • Loss of opportunities to teach and guide children (i.e., when a mother dies, leaving children no one to help them learn and grow)

Are California Wrongful Death Damages Taxed?

Damages that are both economic and non-economic are not taxed in the same way. For example, California's economic damages are not taxable (in most situations). This means that if you are awarded monetary damages, you are not required to report the money as income. However, they may be taxable if you have already obtained an income tax deduction for accident-related expenses.

On the other hand, non-economic damages are always taxable. Therefore, you must report non-economic damages as income on your tax return if you receive them.

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California's Time Limits On Wrongful Death

The period of time to seek compensation when a loved one dies in California is limited.

Wrongful death has a two-year statute of limitations from the date of the person's death. The time limit is six months when the irresponsible party is a government agency.

You should contact a California Attorney for Personal Injury if you've lost a family member is vital. You should consider the statute of limitations to keep your right to sue the liable party.

Find the Best Personal Injury Attorneys In Los Angeles (And Across California!) is a California Bar Association-Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a prescreened California personal injury lawyer best fit to handle your claims. Contact us on our 24/7 lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999 or complete our inquiry submission form for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.


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Unlike other services, we maintain complete independence from the lawyers receiving these referrals, ensuring transparency and fairness.

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Attorneys are available in most areas of law throughout Southern California. Every lawyer in or network has been vetted for:

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How to find the best lawyer for your legal case: 

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Your information will go directly to our 24 hour legal department bypassing our call center. You will get a reply via email within 15 minutes. 

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