Losing a loved one due to negligence or intentional harm is something families hope they will never face. Unfortunately, many families do. It is a tragedy when a family member dies, but dying at another’s hand compounds the pain. Some are intentional acts such as assault and murder, while others are due to negligence. The latter group includes car accidents and truck crashes, slips and falls and others.
When either scenario occurs, the family may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. This claim will help the family recover financial stability after their loved one’s demise.
Incidence of Wrongful Death in California
Fatalities are common in California. They happen for a variety of reasons and fall into two broad categories, intentional acts and accidents. The following is a breakdown of such deaths annually:
- Intentional deaths: The number of firearm fatalities in 2017 was 3,184, and 2,022 murders occurred the same year.
- Accidental deaths: 4,000 Californians die in auto accidents, and an additional 300 are killed in truck crashes. Also, 100 individuals die due to machinery accidents, and another 300 are killed at work.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
Under California Civil Code 377.60, the following individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of California:
- The spouse of the deceased
- The domestic partner of the deceased
- The decedent’s children
- The children of the decedent’s children if the decedent’s children are deceased themselves
- If the decedent is a minor, then the parents of the child can file. If the parents are also deceased, then the children’s guardians
- The decedent’s parents
Deadline to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
There is a deadline beyond which a complaint cannot be filed. This statute of limitation differs in all types of lawsuits. In California, the deadline to file a wrongful death lawsuit is two years from the time of the person’s demise.
In some cases, the responsible party is a city or state government agency. If so, the family’s deadline date is different and follows the following protocol:
- The claimant must file a claim against the government agency within six months of the accident.
- The agency has 45 days to answer.
- If they deny the claim, the claimant must file a lawsuit within six months.
- If the agency does not respond, the claimant has two years to file a lawsuit.
A California wrongful death lawyer will ensure that all documents are filed on time.
Filing a Complaint
After you are sure that you can file a wrongful death lawsuit, a complaint is filed in civil court. This outlines the family’s case against the at-fault party. It explains the complaint’s reasons, designates the person against whom the claim is lodged, and provides the case’s legal background. The complaint also includes a demand for judgment. This specifies wrongful death damages sought by the family from the defendant.
The summons or notice is sent to the defendant to let the person or entity know that a lawsuit has been filed. It also lists the deadline within which the defendant must answer the complaint or request that the court dismisses it. If the complaint is not responded to by the deadline, the defendant will be considered in default.
When the defendant responds to the lawsuit, it is in the form of an answer. It usually answers each paragraph found in the complaint and either admits to the complaint, denies it or protests that the defendant does not have the knowledge needed to accept or reject it.
Counterclaim and Response
Sometimes, the defendant has a complaint against the plaintiff. When this happens, the defendant can file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
The plaintiff can answer the counterclaim in the same way the defendant answers the lawsuit. This answer to the counterclaim is often called a reply.
When two or more people have their complaints relating to the same incident, they can file a cross-claim. This type of lawsuit is expected in a multiple vehicle accident when several drivers are involved. This can occur when one driver sues two others involved in the accident.
However, one of the drivers might be killed by one of the other motor vehicle operators’ actions. In this case, his family can file a cross-claim against the other driver. The answer to the cross-claim proceeds in the same way as described above.
The California Wrongful Death Law Firm of David Azizi
David has helped the residents of Los Angeles and surrounding areas to file a wrongful death claim. In this trying time, the family needs the insight an experienced lawyer can provide. David is called one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles by the renowned legal ranking firm Super Lawyers. Let him help you. Call (800) 991-5292 to schedule a free case review and learn your options going forward.