Wrongful Death

You are not alone

No person is ever prepared to face the death of a loved one, especially when it is caused by the negligence of another person. Wrongful death cases are sudden, alarming and can leave a victim’s dependents and survivors feeling confused and at a loss for answers to whom to hold accountable. If there is a loss of a loved one due to the negligence or intentional action of another person, you should contact an attorney immediately to receive legal advice on how to move forward with a claim.

We're here to listen and support you.

At Pena Law we know there is no amount that can be paid to compensate for the loss of a life. If you believe a loved one has lost their life due to negligence or the wrongful doing of another person or entity, Vanessa Pena can help you figure out your next steps. Pena Law has handled various different wrongful death cases, and is committed to addressing all your questions and concerns with compassion, patience and understanding.

What do I need to know about wrongful death claims?

1. When is a wrongful death applicable?

A wrongful death claim can arise from any personal injury case where the defendant or entity acted in a negligent or wrongful way that directly resulted in the death of a person. Some examples of wrongful death cases are:

  • Assault, battery and other intentional torts
  • Medical malpractice
  • Auto accident
  • Dog bites
  • Slip and fall
  • Defective products
  • Pedestrian accidents

2. Who can file a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the survivors of the deceased victim, or by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. In California, the filing party is limited to the following:

  • the deceased person's surviving spouse
  • the deceased person's domestic partner
  • the deceased person' s surviving children

If there is no surviving person in the deceased person's line of descent, then a wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by anyone "who would be entitled to the property of the decedent by intestate succession"; that can include the deceased person's parents, or the deceased person's siblings, depending on who is living at the time of the deceased person's death.

Additionally, if they can show they were financially dependent on the deceased person, the following people can also bring a wrongful death lawsuit in California:

  • the deceased person's "putative spouse" and children of the putative spouse
  • the deceased person's stepchildren, and
  • the deceased person's parents.

3. What damages can be claimed?

Damages are typically divided according to whether they compensate the estate for losses associated with the death, or the surviving family members for the personal losses they suffered as a result of the death. Losses that are typically attributed to the estate include:

  • funeral and burial expenses
  • medical and hospital bills for the deceased person's final illness or injury, and
  • lost income, including potential income the deceased person would reasonably have been expected to earn in the future had he or she lived.

Losses that are typically attributed to the surviving family members include:

  • the value of household services
  • loss of anticipated financial support, and
  • loss of love, community, attention, affection, moral support, and guidance.

4. Time is of the essence

Just like any other personal injury claim, a wrongful death claim must be filed within the statute of limitations. In California the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is two years from the date of the victim’s death.