California Wrongful Death Lawsuit Fundamentals

This is about California wrongful death law from Michael P. Ehline, Esq.Wrongful Death: This is any death of a human being that is the result of negligent actions, misconduct or intentional actions by another person, company or entity. The wrongful death lawsuit is often emotionally difficult for the family to pursue, due to their concern about profiting from their loved ones death. This is a suit that holds the responsible party accountable for the direct or indirect death of another person.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit—Who is Eligible?


Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated by the executor of the decedent’s estate. This is the person, who has been named to distribute the deceased member’s assets, be responsible for paying debts and taxes. The executor will file the lawsuit on behalf of the immediate family of the deceased, which is usually the spouse, parents or children. Normally this type of case cannot be pursued by extended family members or friends.

Plaintiff’s are Usually Limited to Immediate Family Members

The reason that family members are the usual plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit, is the fact that the claimant must prove that he or she has been negatively affected by the death of the decedent. The spouse can pursue this type of case and prove that they will no longer benefit from the income the deceased earned, loss of companionship and other changes the death caused in their life. This entitles the spouse to damages for the loss they have suffered.

Proof of this type would be difficult for an extended relative or friend to prove in most wrongful death cases.

Wrongful Death Causes

There are causes that can contribute to a wrongful death and may include:

  • Workplace Accidental Deaths
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Pedestrian Accidents
  • Bicycle Accidents
  • Plane Crashes
  • Food Poisoning
  • Exposure to Hazardous Substances—without adequate warning
  • Use of Toxic Products—without toxic warnings
  • Supervised Activities

This is not a complete list of causes of a wrongful death and each death is different, with different sets of circumstances.

Recovering Damages

Damages are awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit by a judge, who examines the details of the case. They form the basis of the awards what they believe is reasonable compensation for the loss of the family members. In this type of personal injury case the award is often called restitution, rather than compensation. These are common types of damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Loss of support—this can be loss of wages, benefits, homemaking services and other support.
  • Loss of service—this can be loss of parental care
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Interest from the Date of Death

The judge has the option of additional financial restitution in the form of pecuniary damages, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Using Expert Testimony in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Expert testimony is admissible to give an accounting of the exact value of the deceased to his or her family. This expert witness can be an attorney, an economist or other professional, who has the ability to determine the value of provision or services.

The expert witness may be especially helpful in the case of a housewife, who did not work outside of the home. While her family did not suffer a direct financial loss, they did suffer a loss of services, rather than bringing in additional income to the household. The family can still recover substantial damages, since her work within the household did have value. Expert testimony can clarify the contribution the wife brought to the household and recommend pecuniary damages be awarded.

Survival Actions

Survival actions are a part of a wrongful death case (learn more), when the decedent did not die immediately, but instead suffered consciously prior to their death. When this occurs it may add to the pecuniary damages that are awarded to the family.

One example of this could be the person that is involved in a car accident, as the direct fault of another driver’s actions. The victim did not die in the crash, but was hospitalized with severe injuries, with one requiring the amputation of a leg. While the amputation surgery went alright, the victim later suffered an infection, which was too much for them to fight in their weakened condition related to the accident. The family is not only eligible for compensation for what the grim reaper took from you, but also for the amount of suffering the victim incurred following the tragedy.

Obtaining Legal Counsel

It is crucial for the family to have legal representation, from a personal injury lawyer. These are legal professionals, who have knowledge of wrongful death law and lawsuits. They can advise the family about their legal options and guide them through the legal process. If you and your family have suffered the loss of a loved one at the hands of another individual, company or entity, Michael Ehline at Ehline Law Firm PC at 633 W 5th St. #2890 Los Angeles, CA 90071. 213.596.9642, can assist in the wrongful death lawsuit process.

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