Someone dying unexpectedly will have a ripple effect on everyone else in their life. Their employer and coworkers will struggle to adjust to their sudden absence. Their family members will have profound emotional grief to process in addition to the practical implications of losing a family member.
Wrongful death lawsuits provide an opportunity for those most affected by a tragic and untimely death to ask the courts to hold an individual or business accountable for that loss. It can also lead to financial compensation for the provable impact of the death.
California has certain rules that apply the wrongful death claims that those considering such a lawsuit need to know.
You only have two years to file a claim
With rare exceptions involving the discovery of previously hidden information, those hoping to hold an individual or business responsible for a death only have two years following the date of someone’s death to initiate a lawsuit.
If they do not file within that two-year window of time, they may permanently lose the right to ask for financial compensation related to the death.
Only family members can typically file
The person who died may have been your long-time romantic partner who helped cover your basic cost-of-living expenses. However, if you never took the step to marry them, the civil courts likely won’t allow you to bring a wrongful death claim.
Close family members are the ones with such rights under California law, with closest relationships leading to the strongest rights. Spouses and children are typically the parties given the first priority, although parents and other family members could file when someone has neither a spouse nor surviving children.
In scenarios where there are no family members to bring a claim, the representative of someone’s estate could file suit on their behalf.
There must be evidence to support the claim
Although the standard for evidence in civil lawsuits is lower than what the courts require for a criminal case, you will still need evidence of some sort to support your claim that a business or individual is responsible for your loved one’s death.
You only need to show that the preponderance of the evidence available supports your claim rather than to prove the other party’s responsibility beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard for a criminal conviction.
Learning more about wrongful death claims in California can help those grieving choose the right path to justice.