What is Wrongful Death?

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Wrongful death actions arise when a death is the result of another’s wrongful act or negligence. Common law did not permit this type of action, but most states including California now permit them. In California, the statute that establishes the wrongful death action is section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.

In addition to the trauma of losing a loved one, the legal aspects of wrongful death can also be complex. For example, there is the question of who can file the wrongful death claim, as only a certain number of people are permitted to file these types of claims. In California any family member, including a domestic partner may file the claim. However, the law prioritizes some people before others. First in line are the surviving spouse and children. Following them are siblings, parents, nieces, nephews and grandparents. Claimants who are not first in line must demonstrate that they were dependent on the decedent when he or she died. Attorneys are often called upon to sort out questions of who the proper parties to a lawsuit will be and what evidence is needed to prove another’s wrongful act or negligence.

It is important to know that, in most cases, there is a 2-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. The means you have two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit. However, the longer one waits to file  the harder it can become to identify potential witnesses, secure evidence needed to prove the case and obtain all that may be needed to adequately prepare a case for trial.

Posted in Wrongful Death | Tagged california code of civil procedure, section 377.60, wrongful act or negligence

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