Wrongful Death

An Overview of California’s Wrong Death Lawsuit

A human life is truly precious and no amount of compensation can ever make up for the loss of a loved one. However, if a loved one is lost due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person or entity, filing a claim can help ease the financial stressors and burden that may have been inflicted. A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or intentional actions of another. In order to establish wrongful death, the plaintiff must prove a number of things before compensation can be awarded—most importantly, it must be proven that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person and the breach of that duty is what resulted in a fatal accident. 

What are the common causes of a wrongful death?

What is the Statute of Limitation to file a wrongful death claim in California? 

Time is of the essence when pursuing legal action for a wrongful death. We urge you to promptly file a claim to avoid any additional financial burden to the surviving members of a loved one. In California, the statute of limitation to file a wrongful death claim is within two years of the date of the death of a loved one. 

What must I prove in a wrongful death claim?

A wrongful death action, is a civil action against someone who can be held responsible for the death of another. Some cases, such as battery, can be taken to both civil and criminal court. However, the standard of proof in a civil case is much lower than a criminal case.

The following elements must be present in a successful wrongful death lawsuit: 

  • The death of a human being. 
  • Negligence caused by another person or entity (or with intent to harm).
  • The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of death, and,
  • The appointment of a personal representative for the decedent's estate. 

The Four Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit


The surviving members or attorney must prove that the death of their loved one was due to the negligence and misconduct of the defendant.

For instance, the defendant was driving under the influence.

Breach of Duty

The defendant owed a duty to the deceased victim and failed to act reasonably in order to uphold that duty of care. 

For instance, the defendant did not act in a reasonable manner by choosing to get behind the wheel after a night of drinking. They failed to uphold the duties of a motorist that would otherwise prevent foreseeable injuries to others. 


There must be a link between the negligence of a defendant and the death of a victim. The bare existence of breach of duty does not support a wrongful death claim. The surviving members or attorney must prove that the negligence, misconduct, or intentional actions of the defendant was the cause of the victim’s death. 

For instance, the death of the victim must have been the result of the driver's negligence. If the death was caused by a pre-existing condition, there is no grounds to file a claim. 


The death of the victim must have inflicted quantifiable damages, such as financial and emotional suffering. This could include hospitalization, medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of parental guidance, loss of income, loss of inheritance, and pain and suffering of the victim prior to their death. 

A successful wrongful death claim can help bring relief to the surviving members of the deceased victim. In order to do so, proving these four elements requires the right knowledge and expertise of a legal expert.

Contact our personal injury attorneys online or by calling (510) 988-5566 to schedule a consultation.