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Common Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Claims in California

Posted By Carolyn Tan
Common Misconceptions About Wrongful Death Claims in California

Losing a loved one is a traumatic and devastating experience that will affect you for years to come. It’s even harder when the loss could have been prevented had someone else just made better choices. When that’s the case, surviving family members may have the option of filing a wrongful death claim against the liable party. While nothing will truly make you whole after the death of a loved one, a wrongful death claim in Southern California can at least bring closure. With the team at DeWitt Algorri & Algorri, you can fight to get what you’re owed. We know how death can leave you lost and unsure of your next steps, so rely on our aggressive representation throughout this process. Call our office at 855-WINNING (946-6464) to set up a consultation now.

There are several common misconceptions that can lead people to miss out on the opportunity for compensation—or lead to a family squabble over money. Understanding why these myths are wrong can help you assert your rights after an unexpected death.

Any Family Member Can File a Claim

There’s often a misconception that any surviving family member can pursue a wrongful death claim in California. However, just like in any other state, California has strict laws regarding who can take legal action after a wrongful death. The people entitled to seek compensation, per California law, include:

  • The decedent’s spouse/domestic partner and their children

  • Grandchildren, if the decedent’s children are deceased

  • Those who would be entitled to the decedent’s estate under the laws of intestate succession if the decedent was not survived by a spouse or children

Unfortunately, this misconception can do serious damage to family relationships. When a family member comes out of the woodwork to take legal action they are not legally able to take, it can lead to irreparable harm within the family.

You Don’t Need to File a Wrongful Death Claim If There’s a Criminal Case Against the Perpetrator

Perhaps you believe that you don’t need to file a wrongful death claim if the police or another agency are already investigating the negligent party’s actions. For example, the police may file charges against an impaired driver who caused a fatal crash, or the Medical Board of California may investigate a doctor who is accused of malpractice. 

However, criminal or licensure investigations are not wrongful death claims. They do seek to hold the negligent party accountable, but not in a way that financially compensates the family members left behind. The outcomes of these other investigations differ widely from the outcomes of a wrongful death claim, and if you want closure on your end, a civil claim could be the way to go.

Compensation is Too Limited to Be Worth It

Some victims write off wrongful death claims before even considering them. They look at the negligent party, realize they have minimal to no assets, and decide that there’s not any compensation to be recovered. However, California law allows you to recover compensation for a wide range of damages, including medical expenses incurred immediately before the decedent’s death, funeral and burial costs, a reasonable estimate of the decedent’s earnings had they survived, loss of financial support, and other losses. Additionally, it often doesn’t matter if the negligent party has any assets. In many cases, claims are paid out by an insurance provider. There’s a lot of nuance in this area, which is why you should talk to a wrongful death lawyer before giving up on your claim completely.

If You Don’t Start Immediately, You’ve Lost Your Chance

Money is probably at the bottom of your priority list after losing a loved one. Even when medical bills start piling up and the full financial weight of your loss hits you, it’s hard to think about seeking compensation for your loss. Too many people have given up their right to file a claim because they think they have just days or weeks to talk to a lawyer. In California, you generally have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. Even if you think the evidence you need for a successful claim is lost, it doesn’t hurt to talk to an attorney about  your options.

Considering a Wrongful Death Claim? Choose the Wrongful Death Attorneys at DeWitt Algorri & Algorri to Fight For You

When you’re grieving a major loss, you shouldn’t have to fight alone for fair and full compensation. While you process the death of a loved one, let our team advocate for you. Set up your free consultation right away by calling us at 855-WINNING (946-6464) or contacting us online.

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About the Author:

Carolyn Tan

Carolyn Tan is a Partner and trial attorney at DeWitt Algorri & Algorri. She was born in Canada, but grew up in Arcadia, California.She received her undergraduate degree in psychology and English from UCLA in 2003 and her J.D. from Loyola Law School. Prior to law school, she taught at-risk youth in Pasadena and worked as an Assistant Editor at WeddingChannel.com. At Loyola, she interned at the Center for Conflict Resolution and at the Center for Juvenile and Policy. She also served as a Production Editor on the International and Comparative Law Review and as a Senior Editor on the Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. She has externed for the Honorable Audrey B. Collins, the Honorable Stephen J. Hillman, and the Honorable Jeffrey S. White.... View full business profile here: Carolyn Tan