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Wrongful Death Claims

In California a legal claim can be presented for the wrongful death of an individual.  A wrongful death claim is essentially a claim for the loss of care, comfort and society of the victim decedent.  The money damages claimed may include damages to compensate the claimants for their respective emotional loss as well as financial loss to extent same can be proved.

Wrongful death actions can only be brought by those persons who are expressly described in California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60.  The persons allowed to bring such a claim are the victim decedent's surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, children and children of previously decease children.  

Generally, the parents of the victim decedent may bring this claim only if the deceased victim left no children or if the parents can establish financial dependence upon the deceased victim.

There are many other subtle factual scenarios that affect a claimant's ability to bring a wrongful death claim however the foregoing generally covers most fact scenarios.

The Statute of Limitations for such a claim varies depending upon the factual basis that gave rise to the loss of the victim decedent's life.  For example, a wrongful death claim arising from medical neglect would be subject to a one year Statute of Limitations.  A wrongful death claim arising from an automobile collision would generally be subject to a two year Statute of Limitations.  The timing constraints of the California Government Code would apply if the claim arose from a fact scenario that involved a public entity.  Each case and fact scenario must be closely and carefully examined to determine which Limitations period applies.

In addition to a wrongful death action, claims may also be presented for certain economic losses including the costs of last illness and burial expenses.  These damages are not part of a wrongful death action but rather are addressed in a Survivor's Action which claims are brought under different sections of the Code of Civil Procedure.

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