A "wrongful death" cause of action in California is one in which a person dies due to the negligence and/or willful misconduct of another. California's wrongful death statue is unique in that it only permits recovery for punitive damages and denies any recovery for compensatory damages. Thus, California's wrongful death statute is setup to punish the wrongdoer, not to compensate the family for economic losses.
Wrongful death cases can arise in a variety of circumstances, including motor vehicle accidents, truck accidents, construction accidents, defective products (products liability), as well as other situations where individual an dies as a result of someone else's negligent and/or willful misconduct.
Whatever the cause, we can help clients prove that the four critical components of negligence exist in their claim:
1. the defendant had a duty to the deceased,
2. the defendant failed in that duty (breach of duty),
3. that the fatality was caused by the defendant's breach of duty, and
4. that the survivors are entitled to damages as a result of the loss of their loved one.
Some states authorize surviving family members to be compensated for both economic and non-economic losses, including loss of financial support, love, care, comfort, supervision, guidance, household assistance and general society. Some states also allow surviving family members to be compensated for their personal grief and suffering. Who is entitled to sue and the damages that can be sought vary from state to state and are controlled by written statutes.