What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Everything You Need to Know


The loss of a loved one causes grief, confusion, and emotional distress. It can also leave the surviving family members of the deceased with monetary damages and responsibilities.

If a loved one died at the hands of someone’s negligence or intentional harm, their family can sue the negligent party for “wrongful death” and hold them accountable for the harm they caused the innocent victim.

While a wrongful death lawsuit will not bring back a loved one, if successful, it helps families and loved ones get justice and cope a little more by providing monetary and emotional relief.

In this post, you’ll learn what is a wrongful death lawsuit, what constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit, and how a qualified attorney who knows the law can help you get justice.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Know the Facts

A wrongful death claim takes place in civil court. The survivors of the deceased victim or the person that handles the deceased person’s estate make the claim and can sue the defendant for monetary damages.

If the court rules the incident was a wrongful death, the guilty party pays the survivors the amount of money awarded by the court.

A wrongful death claim is different from a criminal case such as a homicide which the state pursues. In this case, the defendant can be sentenced to prison, jail, or probation.

However, in the state of California, survivors of the deceased may sue for wrongful death in a civil court at the same time a criminal case takes place.

Wrongful Death Law and Statistics

The state of California holds the highest death rate due to motor vehicle accidents in the United States.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports an estimated 36,750 fatalitiesoccurred as a result of motor vehicle crashes in 2018. Many of these accidents were caused by the negligent acts of speeding and drunk driving.

To add, in the U.S., the third leading cause of death occurs from medical errors. According to CNBC, medical errors cause between 250,000 to 440,000 deaths every year.

California Law permits survivors to file a civil wrongful death case when someone causes the death of your loved one. Plaintiffs file wrongful death lawsuits even when criminal charges are never filed by the state.

If you win a wrongful death case, you will receive financial compensation related to the death of your loved one.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In the state of California as well as other states, these are the plaintiffs who may file a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • Spouses
  • Parents of a deceased child or fetus
  • Domestic partners
  • Children or stepchildren
  • Siblings
  • Financial dependents
  • The decedent’s executor or administrator

If you are related to the deceased in this way, you have the right to file a wrongful death case. When successful you will be compensated for losses your loved one suffered.

You can also be awarded monetary damages had that occurred before the death that your loved one could have recovered if they survived.

An example of this includes claims for the injury that led to death that the decedent survived for a period of time. You can also be compensated for claims that do not relate to the death that the victim held the right to sue.

Incidents That Result In Wrongful Death Claims

If your loved one dies due to negligence or intentional harm, you can sue for a wrongful death claim. The following list includes common types of incidents that have led to wrongful death claims:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Defective products
  • Medical malpractice
  • Firearm accidents
  • Intentional acts of violence
  • Police brutality
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Childcare abuse and neglect
  • Construction accidents
  • Workplace accidents
  • Slip and fall injuries
  • Premises liabilities
  • Drownings

These are the most frequent incidents that can lead to wrongful death claims. However, there may be others. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney to learn if your claim constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit.

Damages You Can Be Compensated for in a Wrongful Death Claim

A few examples of the damages you can be awarded due to a wrongful death claim may include 1) compensation for the loss of a loved one’s financial support; 2) Funeral expenses; 3) Burial costs; 4) Emotional support and loss of love.

Statute of Limitations to File Wrongful Death Lawsuits Vary By State

When filing a wrongful death claim, the state in which you file puts a limit on when you can take legal action. These restrictions require the plaintiff to file the lawsuit within a specific time frame.

Once this time frame passes, you will no longer be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. It’s imperative to know the statute of limitations for the state where you’ll file.

Remember, the statute of limitations differs from state to state. The time period given can also depend on the type of offense.

The State of California

For example, the state of California requires a wrongful death lawsuit for a non-medical offense to be filed within two years.

However, California allows plaintiffs suing for medical malpractice to file three years from the date the fatal injury or one year after the injury became known to the victim.

The State of Nevada

In the state of Nevada, a claimant must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date the victim became deceased. Nevada will not permit plaintiffs to file the claim once the two-year statute of limitations has passed.

The State of Washington

In Washington, claimants have three years from the victim’s date of death to file or pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Once the three year time period ceases, you can’t file a wrongful death claim in Washington state.

How An Attorney Can Help with A Wrongful Death Claim

Experiencing the death of a loved one is a painful, emotional time. A wrongful death attorney can help you recover maximum financial losses and hold the defendant responsible for their actions.

What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Your Questions Answered

After reading this post, you may no longer have to ask,” what is a wrongful death lawsuit?” You know more of the facts and the answers to many of your questions.

A compassionate and qualified attorney can examine your case, tell you if you qualify for a claim, and guide you through the legal process during your wrongful death lawsuit.

If you live in California, Nevada, or Washington, contact Sweet Law today for a free case evaluation. We fight for our clients to get them the justice and compensation they deserve.

Related Posts

Person Dies in Pedestrian Collision on Pacific Coast Highway [Los Angeles, CA]

1 Person Dead in Pedestrian Crash on 91 Freeway near 57 Freeway [Anaheim, CA]

1 Killed in Anaheim Pedestrian Accident on 91 Freeway near 57 Freeway   ANAHEIM, CA (September 13, 2021) – Early Sunday morning, a person died in a pedestrian crash on 91 Freeway near 57 Freeway.   According to California Highway Patrol, the incident happened at around 1:00 a.m. Moreover, it occurred on the transition from […]

Long Ta of Santa Ana Dies in Edinger Avenue Hit-and-Run Crash [Fountain Valley, CA]

Isaiah Ortega-Dage Dies in Hit-and-Run Crash on Palm Drive [Desert Hot Springs, CA]

Former Football Player at Shadow Hills High School Isaiah Ortega-Dage Dies in Desert Hot Springs Crash Desert Hot Springs, CA (September 11, 2021) – On Saturday, 23-year-old Isaiah Ortega-Dage, a former student and football player at Shadow Hills High School, suffered fatal injuries in a hit-and-run crash on Palm Drive. Reports indicate that the accident […]

Kevin Matul Muralles Arrested in DUI Crash on Foothill Boulevard [San Luis Obispo, CA]

Kevin Matul Muralles Arrested in DUI Crash on Foothill Boulevard [San Luis Obispo, CA]

1 Injured in 1 Arrested in San Luis Obispo Auto Accident on Foothill Boulevard   SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA (September 7, 2021) – Sunday night, authorities arrested Kevin Matul Muralles after a DUI crash on Foothill Boulevard.   According to San Luis Obispo Police Department, at around 11:23 p.m., a westbound vehicle traveled at a […]

Female Pedestrian Dies, Paul Cruel of Novato Involved in Accident on Highway 37 [Vallejo, CA]

Woman Injured in Pedestrian Hit-and-Run Crash on G Street [San Diego, CA]

1 Hospitalized in San Diego Pedestrian Accident on G Street   SAN DIEGO, CA (August 18, 2021) – Tuesday morning, a woman sustained injuries in a pedestrian hit-and-run crash on G Street.   According to San Diego Police officer Scott Lockwood, the incident happened at around 2:13 a.m. Moreover, it occurred on G Street in […]

Help Is Here

We have answers. Tell us about your situation.

Call (800) 674-7854 or request a callback below
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Police Report Request Form

Police Report Request

"*" indicates required fields

Name*
Sweet Lawyers has my permission to help provide a free police report.*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.