Who Has The Right To Sue For Wrongful Death?

wrongful death

Losing a loved one is always painful, but it is devastating when someone’s negligence causes your relative’s death. However, if you prove that another party was at fault for the accident, you could receive compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit. For more information, contact our Glendale wrongful death attorneys today for a consultation.

Wrongful Death Claims In California

A wrongful death claim can occur from many incidents, including car accidents, medical malpractice, product defects, and criminal activity. To potentially receive compensation in a wrongful death claim, as the plaintiff, you must prove these elements:

  • A person died
  • The death was caused by someone’s negligence or intent to harm them
  • Surviving members of the family suffered monetary damages because of the death
  • There is a personal representative of the estate

Importantly, wrongful death claims in California only require you to have a preponderance of the evidence to prove the defendant was liable for the death. This is not as high of a standard as a criminal case, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Remember that a wrongful death claim is different from any criminal case that may be related to the incident. Even if a person is acquitted of a crime, they still can be successfully sued for wrongful death.

Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death In California?

The law stipulates that only certain parties can sue for wrongful death. Those with first priority are:

  • The deceased’s surviving domestic partner or spouse
  • The deceased’s surviving children
  • The children of deceased children related to the decedent

If there are no survivors in these groups, the wrongful death claim can be filed by anyone entitled to the deceased’s assets according to intestate succession. This means anyone allowed under the law to inherit the deceased’s property if the person died without a will. This group includes the deceased’s parents and siblings, among others.

In addition to those in the groups above, the following people can file a claim, if they can prove they were financially reliant on the deceased:

  • The deceased’s putative spouse, which means someone who wrongly thought they were married to the deceased
  • The children of the deceased’s putative spouse
  • The decedent’s stepchildren
  • The deceased’s parents
  • The deceased’s legal guardians, if the deceased’s parents passed away

Damages Available In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If a wrongful death claim is successful, you may be awarded damages for your losses. In California, the following economic and non-economic damages are available:

  • Financial support the deceased would have provided to the family
  • Loss of benefits or gifts that family members would have received from the deceased
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • The value of household services the deceased would have provided to the family
  • Loss of the deceased’s companionship, love, care, comfort, affection, and moral support
  • The spouse’s loss of intimacy with the deceased
  • Loss of the deceased’s guidance

California does not have a general cap on damages for wrongful death lawsuits. However, a cap on medical malpractice damages applies to a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a medical malpractice case.

California Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations

In California, there is a limited time to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The limit is two years from the date of the deceased’s death. If you do not file the case within two years, the court will probably dismiss it. Your best opportunity to avoid this problem is to have the case reviewed by a qualified attorney immediately. The attorney will inform you in the initial meeting if you do not have a case.

Common California Questions And Answers

Some of the most common questions about these cases include:

What Are Common Reasons For Wrongful Death Lawsuits In California?

Wrongful death claims can involve car accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, boat and airplane accidents, defective products, dangerous chemical exposure, work accidents, criminal actions, drownings, and more.

How Is A Wrongful Death Attorney Paid?

Many potential plaintiffs are reluctant to file a wrongful death claim because they fear the legal expenses. However, most wrongful death attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis. If the attorney fails in your case, you do not pay legal fees. The fee is a percentage of the compensation received in the case. When hiring an attorney, be sure to understand what the contingency fee is and how additional legal expenses are paid.

For example, your case could require the attorney to hire accident reconstruction experts to build the case. In addition, you should understand if those fees will be taken out of your settlement or award.

How Do You Know You Need A Wrongful Death Attorney?

Not everyone is eligible for a wrongful death claim, but if the following factors apply, you should hire an attorney immediately:

  • Someone died, and another party caused it. If your loved one died in an accident or criminal act by another person, you should have an attorney.
  • You are a surviving close family member. Spouses are the most common parties who file a wrongful death claim, but there are other eligible parties (listed earlier in this article).
  • The insurance company is not being helpful. Your attorney can help you prove that the other party was negligent and caused the death. The lawyer will attempt to show that the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care, the duty was breached and caused your loved one’s death.
  • You need financial assistance. No amount of money has ever replaced a loved one. However, the family may have depended financially on the deceased, and mounting financial challenges make life difficult. An attorney can determine what the case is worth and get the maximum compensation by advocating passionately on your behalf.

Speak to Our Glendale Wrongful Death Attorneys Now

There are some minor personal injury claims you can handle on your own. However, you should not attempt to settle a wrongful death claim without a skilled attorney. Even if there is no doubt about liability, arriving at a fair value for your case is complicated. Therefore, retaining a wrongful death lawyer who knows the law and how to determine what the case is worth is essential. Contact our Glendale wrongful death attorneys at Ourfalian & Ourfalian today at (818) 550-7777 for more information.

How Is A Wrongful Death Claim In California Proven?

wrongful death

Did you lose your loved one in an accident because of another person’s negligence? You can file a wrongful death lawsuit under the law of California. Losing a loved one because of another party’s negligence gives you the possibility to recover damages for your losses.

However, wrongful death must be proven in court by a preponderance of the evidence. This means you and your attorney need to bring plenty of evidence that the defendant’s action or inaction at least contributed to your loved one’s death.

Learn about California wrongful death lawsuits below, including how difficult they are to prove. If you have questions about a potential case, please contact Glendale wrongful death attorneys Ourfalian & Ourfalian.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Overview

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action against someone who was negligent and caused the death of another person. For example, wrongful death lawsuits are brought for victims of accidents who would have filed personal injury lawsuits if they had lived. The survivors may receive compensation for their losses if the case is successful. In addition, a settlement or jury award may include compensation for non-monetary and monetary damages. The most common wrongful death lawsuits involve these situations:

  • Auto, truck, and motorcycle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Intentional actions, such as stabbings, shootings, and other violent crimes
  • Supervised activities at schools, daycare facilities, field trips, and sporting events

Four Parts of a California Wrongful Death Lawsuit

You cannot file a California wrongful death lawsuit for every case. A valid wrongful death lawsuit must prove the following four elements through substantial evidence. While the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is not as high as in a criminal case, you must prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. If you do, you may be awarded damages for your losses:


You must prove that the defendant’s negligent behavior led to your loved one’s death. The legal definition of negligence means they failed to act according to the standard of care. Or they did not act in a way to prevent the death of your loved one.

Breach of Duty

The defendant must have owed a duty of care to your loved one. This means they were responsible for acting safely or rationally in a way that a ‘reasonable person’ would have acted in the same scenario. For instance, physicians have a duty to make proper medical decisions that will not injure or kill a patient.

Breach of duty is any act another reasonable person would not have done in the same situation. It also includes acts of carelessness and disregarding of the safety of others. For example, a driver high on marijuana, who kills someone at a stop sign, breached their duty to drive safely and not recklessly.


You must prove how the other party’s negligence caused or contributed to your loved one’s death. This means you must show the death would not have occurred if the defendant had not caused or contributed to it.

For example, a drunk driver may have run a red light and slammed into your spouse’s car, killing him. It could be relatively easy to prove that the alleged drunk driver caused the death of your loved one.


You must show the court that the death of your loved one led to damages. Damages from this loss include economic damages that can be proven easily, such as:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Hospital bills
  • Loss of current and future income of the deceased
  • Other financial support, such as pensions and investments
  • Benefits and gifts you expected to receive, such as alimony or child support
  • Reasonable value of home services your loved one would have given, such as home repairs and taking care of the yard

Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate. They involve the mental and emotional pain of your loss:

  • Loss of care, comfort, love, affection, and companionship
  • Loss of training and guidance
  • Loss of consortium, or loss of sexual intimacy
  • The pain your loved one went through during death

How Difficult Is It to Prove Wrongful Death in California?

Some wrongful deaths can be challenging to approve. You and your wrongful death attorney must prove the four elements of wrongful death. If you prove the first three elements but do not show damages, you cannot prevail in the lawsuit. You and your loved ones only will be compensated if you prove all four.

The good news is it is easier to meet the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit than a criminal case. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the standard in criminal cases and is the most difficult to prove. The standard of proof in wrongful death is lower.

However, the burden of proof is on you or the person who files the lawsuit. The defendant does not need to prove their innocence. However, to prove your case by the preponderance of the evidence, you need to show your claim has at least a 50% chance of being true.

California Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Be mindful of the two-year statute of limitations for California wrongful death lawsuits. Therefore, you have only two years from your loved one’s date of death to file a lawsuit.

Contact Glendale Wrongful Death Attorneys Today

If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another party’s negligence, you face emotional devastation and uncertainty about the future. For example, will you be able to save for your child’s college expenses? Can you pay your mortgage? What about your other bills?

Glendale wrongful death attorneys Ourfalian & Ourfalian have represented California wrongful death clients for 35 years. Whether you lost your loved one in a car, truck, motorcycle, or another type of accident, our wrongful death attorneys can obtain compensation to secure your financial future.

Ourfalian & Ourfalian represent wrongful death clients in Encino, Alhambra, Arcadia, Burbank, Glendale, El Monte, Granada Hills, Los Angeles, Monterey Park, North Hollywood, Pasadena, Van Nuys, and surrounding communities in Southern California and the San Fernando Valley. Please contact us immediately for a complimentary consultation at: (818) 550-7777.