A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to compensate family members who have survived their loved one’s death. This includes the support the decedent would have provided if he or she had lived. The damages are compensatory, which means they compensate the surviving family members for their financial and emotional loss due to their loved one’s demise.In California, both economic and non-economic damages are allowed in a wrongful death lawsuit. The two categories are different from one another. Economic damages are easily calculated using such elements as the wages the decedent earned before their death and the wages they would be expected to earn in the future. Non-economic damages, on the other hand, have a personal valuation and differ with each case.
Types of Wrongful death Cases
There are many reasons for a wrongful death. Some of the most common are:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Car accidents
- DUI accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Assault and battery
- Elder abuse
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Abuse of children
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in California
The following surviving heirs can file a wrongful death lawsuit in California:
- The decedent’s spouse
- The deceased’s domestic partner
- Children of the deceased
- The children’s children or grandchildren
- Stepchildren can file if they were dependent on the deceased for 180 days
- Minors who received 50 percent of their support from the decedent
- Others who have the right to file under the state’s laws of intestate succession
Intestate Succession in California
There is a law in California that governs what happens to a person’s property if they die without a will. This process is called intestate succession. These laws cannot be challenged in court, unlike a will. Some individuals have a claim that exists apart from what they would receive under California’s intestate succession laws.
Only estate assets are subject to intestate succession. Such assets represent all the property the deceased owned at their demise. It does not involve property in trusts, life insurance, IRA accounts or property held in joint tenancy.
How Intestate Succession Works
The intestate succession laws list the order that family members are in to inherit. For example, a spouse supersedes children, parents and siblings.
California is a community property state, so if one spouse dies, the assets earned during the couple’s union are given to the remaining spouse. However, some property may not have been acquired during the marriage, which is called separate property. If the couple had children, under the intestate succession laws, the surviving spouse will be given ½ of the separate property or assets. The remaining half will then be distributed to a surviving child. This is true if the parties had only one child. If they had two or more children, the spouse will receive 33 1/3 percent of the property and assets, and the remainder will be divided between the surviving children.
Line of Inheritance in Intestate Succession
- Married, no children: Assets go to the spouse.
- Unmarried with children: Property goes to children.
- Unmarried, more than one child: Assets are divided among the children.
- Unmarried, children predeceased parent: Property goes to the grandchildren.
- Married, with children: As described above
- Unmarried, no children: Property goes to next of kin in a line from parents, siblings, and cousins.
- Unmarried, no children, no kin: Property goes to the state.
How California Wrongful Death Damages Work
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to compensate family members who have survived their loved one’s death with the support the decedent would have provided if he or she was alive based on their life expectancy or that of the plaintiff. The damages are compensatory, which is meant to compensate the surviving family members for their financial and emotional loss due to their loved one’s demise.
In California, both economic and non-economic damages are allowed in a wrongful death lawsuit. The two categories are different from one another. Economic damages are easily calculated using such elements as wages the deceased earned before their death and the wages they would be expected to earn in the future.
How Is Life Expectancy Calculated in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Life expectancy is a crucial part of calculating monetary loss due to a person’s death. A survivor has the right to the financial support the deceased would have received had they lived and provided for them. This includes the wages the decedent would have earned along with retirement benefits and bonuses.
Elements Used to Calculate Life Expectancy
The following factors are used in the calculation of life expectancy:
- Sex (at birth)
- Average life expectancy
Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The following are economic damages included in a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Monetary support the decedent would have provided throughout their life
- The value of household services the deceased provided
- Gifts or the benefits that would have been provided to the family by the decedent
Non-economic damages are also a part of a wrongful death lawsuit. Unlike economic damages, they are not as easily calculated and differ from one family to another. Nonetheless, the family suffers their loss and has a right to be compensated for them. Non-economic damages include:
- The protection the decedent would have provided to his or her family.
- The moral support the family would have received had the decedent lived.
- The affection the decedent gave to his or her family.
- The companionship the decedent gave to family members.
- The guidance the decedent provided is part of the non-economic damages
Contact a California Wrongful Death Law Firm
The laws surrounding wills and intestate succession are complicated. No one should try to deal with them without a lawyer at their side. Los Angeles wrongful death lawyer David Azizi protects his clients’ rights. He works hard to make sure that justice is served. Call him at (800) 991-5292, and schedule a free consultation if your loved one has died because of someone else’s negligence.