How To File A Wrongful Death Claim

If a person loses their life due to the careless, negligent, or intentional actions of another person, then the family members or estate of the deceased could be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. However, the wrongful death claim process can be confusing. Here, we want to give a brief overview of how to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Is Wrongful Death and Who Can File a Claim?

Wrongful death cases arise when a person loses their life due to the actions of another person, business, or entity. Some of the most common types of wrongful death cases arise because of car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian and bicycle accidents, workplace accidents, defective product cases, property owner negligence cases, and more.

Under California law, surviving spouses or domestic partners of the deceased, surviving children of the deceased, or other parties who were dependent upon the deceased are generally allowed to file a wrongful death claim against an alleged negligent party.

The statute of limitations to file a California wrongful death case is two years from the date of death. Most claims filed after this two-year window will be dismissed by the court.

How to Start a Wrongful Death Claim

If you have determined that you are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and are within the statute of limitations for doing so, the next step is to actually commence the claim. It should be noted that it is incredibly beneficial to work with a Santa Ana wrongful death attorney who has a thorough understanding of these laws and has the resources necessary to conduct a full investigation into the case. The wrongful death civil lawsuit procedures can be difficult to navigate for someone with limited legal experience. In general, the steps and your attorney you will take in these situations will include:

  • Obtaining all evidence necessary to prove liability in the case. This could include obtaining any photo or video surveillance of the incident, all medical and autopsy records related to the deceased’s death, statements from eyewitnesses, and more.
  • Working with economic and financial experts to help calculate the total losses incurred by surviving family members.

The Discovery Process

After a lawsuit has been filed, both sides will go through the process of exchanging facts and evidence related to the claim. This is called the discovery process. During this phase of a wrongful death claim, attorneys from each side will be able to take depositions from any witnesses involved in the case.

Negotiating With the Other Party

During all pre-trial phases, negotiations will likely be ongoing between the two parties. This is especially true as evidence comes forward, and one or both sides begins to see the strengths and weaknesses of their case. If the two parties are able to reach a settlement, the lawsuit will be dropped, and the agreed-upon settlement amount will be paid.

A Wrongful Death Trial

If neither side is able to come to a settlement agreement, a court date will be set so that the wrongful death case will be heard before a jury trial. A jury will be presented with all evidence pertaining to the case and will hear from witnesses. Ultimately, a jury will decide whether or not the plaintiffs in the case (the family members of the deceased) should be awarded any compensation for their loss and how much compensation they should be awarded.