Understanding Wrongful Death Law in California

Wrongful death cases are always emotional, even for a law firm that deals with them on a regular basis, however, this work can be incredibly rewarding.  When our Oakland wrongful death law firm helps a grieving family recover compensation, we allow a family to begin to move forward from a terrible tragedy alleviating some of their most pressing financial concerns and also providing a sense of justice.  Whether it is a deadly auto accident such as the accident that claimed 5 lives in the Sierra foothills on Saturday, a dangerously defective product, or any other danger created by someone else’s negligence, California wrongful death law  and the Brod Law Firm can help.

Deadly Accident Involved Santa Rosa Vehicle

The Oakland Tribune reports that a vehicle registered in Santa Rosa was one of two cars involved in a deadly collision near Sonora on Saturday.  Calling it one of the worst accidents the area has seen in a while, California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) officials say that an SUV and a sedan collided in a head-on crash on Highway 120 near Smith Station Road around 6:30 Saturday evening.  Four people travelling in the SUV died at the scene while one was airlifted to a Modesto hospital.  The driver of the sedan also perished while his sole passenger was taken to the same hospital for treatment of major injuries.

Police are looking for witnesses who can help determine which vehicle crossed the double-yellow line to cause the crash.  A CHP spokesman indicated that autopsy results will help determine if alcohol or drugs played a role in the tragic crash.  Local fire crews were able to extinguish flames that threatened the Stanislaus National Forest.

The Basics of Wrongful Death Law

When a person dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, what would have been a personal injury claim if the victim survived may become a claim for wrongful death.  A few of the most important issues in wrongful death cases include:

  • WHAT – In California, wrongful death is a statutory claim based on Civil Code Section 377.60.  The law provides a cause of action when a death results from the wrongful or neglectful acts of someone other than the victim.
  • WHO – The wrongful death statute specifically lists the parties permitted to bring a wrongful death claim. In most cases, the claim belongs to the deceased’s closest relatives including a spouse, child, grandchild (if the child is already deceased), or anyone else who would be entitled to the victim’s property in the absence of a will.  In some cases, others who were dependent on the deceased for support may also have a claim, particularly minors.
  • WHEN – Wrongful death cases must be brought within two years. Given that the victim cannot speak to us, it is particularly important to engage legal counsel as soon as possible to ensure evidence is not lost and all deadlines are met.
  • HOW MUCHCivil Jury Instruction 3921 details the damages available in a wrongful death suit regarding a deceased adult. A proper plaintiff may recover for both economic damages (e.g. loss of financial support, expenses stemming from the death, etc.) and non-economic damages (e.g. loss of companionship/love, loss of sexual relations/consortium, loss of guidance/training).

Gregory Brod is an experienced Northern California wrongful death attorney.  Along with his team, he handles wrongful death cases in Oakland, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco.  Call (800) 427-7020 for more information.

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