California has robust laws in place to protect people who are the victims of corporate malfeasance, wrongful acts or neglect on the part of a business or an individual. Of course, you need to understand your rights before you can reasonably assert them.
When someone you love dies because of the actions or inaction of another person, you have the right to pursue compensation if you have a close familial relationship to that person. These claims, known as wrongful death suits, can offset the financial impact of a death. Spouses, children, parents or either an heir or an executor can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party after a tragic, preventable fatality.
The right to do so is typically only available to family members unless there are no close relatives. If there are no relatives, representatives from the estate, or those entitled to the assets either through a last will or intestate succession, can also pursue civil action against the responsible party.
Every state has its own approach to handling wrongful death lawsuits. Some states have laws that allow individuals to seek punitive damages against the responsible party. Punitive damages are effectively a financial punishment, and they can vastly exceed the overall cost of the accident. Sadly, California does not permit families to seek punitive compensation.
However, there are many other forms of compensation you can request in a wrongful death suit. Dependents of someone who dies tragically can seek compensation for all verifiable financial impacts that result from the death. People often seek compensation for property damage and medical costs associated with their loved one’s death, funeral expenses and lost wages.
Just because you can’t seek punitive damages in a wrongful death case doesn’t mean that you are limited only to the direct financial impact of your loss. Many people also choose to bring survivorship claims that seek compensation for any pain and suffering their loved one endured prior to their death. Some people live for days or even years after suffering injuries caused by someone else, only to later die as a result.
It may also be possible for you to seek non-economic damages related to the loss of your relationship with your loved one. It can be hard to put a price tag on emotional support, physical intimacy and help around the house, but you do have the right to seek compensation for those losses as well as financial ones. Looking closely at what your loved one did for you and how much it could cost to hire professionals for those same services can help you determine what amounts are appropriate.