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San Bernardino Wrongful Death FAQ

Losing a loved one due to the negligence of another individual or entity is an incredible challenge, both emotionally and financially. Wrongful death laws in California allow family members and the estate of the deceased to recover compensation for their losses, but there are certain things that you need to know about in order to pursue your claim successfully.

What is Wrongful Death?

When we turn to the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60-377.62, we see that a wrongful death claim can arise in this state when a person loses their life as a result of the legal fault of another individual or entity. These claims can arise in a variety of ways, including:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Fatal car accidents
  • Harmful criminal actions
  • Employment-related accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Airplane accidents
  • Defective product claims
  • Exposure to dangerous substances or chemicals
  • Premises liability incidents

Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim if the Other Party is Facing Criminal Charges?

One common misconception about wrongful death claims is that it is not possible to file a lawsuit if the at-fault party is facing criminal charges. This is not true. A wrongful death claim occurs in civil court, whereas an individual can face charges brought by prosecutors in criminal court. Family members and personal representatives of the deceased can file their claim in civil court regardless of whether or not another party is facing criminal charges. Additionally, even if a person is found not guilty criminally of causing the death, a civil wrongful death claim can still move forward.

We also want to point out that there does not have to be any type of criminal charges involved with the death in order for a civil wrongful death claim to move forward.

What is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in California?

Wrongful death lawsuits, like any other civil claim in this state, must be filed within a specific time window, known as the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years from the date of the person’s death. If a case is not initiated in the civil court system within the two-year time frame, the family members and the estate will likely lose their right to file the claim at all. This means that they will not be able to recover the compensation they are entitled to for their losses.

What Compensation is Available?

Wrongful death compensation falls into two categories, economic and non-economic. Economic damages are relatively calculable and can include:

  • Any financial support the deceased would have provided throughout their lifetime
  • Lost benefits or gifts family members would have expected to receive from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • A reasonable dollar value of household services the deceased would have provided over their lifetime

Non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate because they revolve around the immeasurable losses a family incurs. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Loss of the deceased’s companionship, comfort, care, protection, love, and assistance
  • Loss of a spouse or partner’s enjoyment of intimacy with the deceased
  • Loss of guidance and moral support of the deceased

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Wrongful Death Claim?

While it is not necessary for families or the estate of the deceased to have an attorney to file their claim, it is strongly recommended that they work with one. Wrongful death claims in California are incredibly complex, and these cases often result in family members going up against well-funded insurance carriers and legal teams. A San Bernardino wrongful death attorney will have the resources to go head to head against these other parties and fully advocate for the family of the deceased.