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Home » Wrongful Death Lawyer in California

Wrongful Death Lawyer in California

What is the difference between a wrongful death civil lawsuit and a criminal case against someone who caused a death?

Mainly the penalty imposed. When a plaintiff wins a wrongful death lawsuit in California, the defendant must pay them a sum of money to compensate for their loss. In criminal cases, defendants found guilty are punished with imprisonment, probation and/or fines payable to the court. 

Are wrongful death settlements taxable in California? 

No – with few exceptions. Exceptions include cases where a settlement triggers an estate tax. Also, when plaintiffs sign non-disclosure agreements, the IRS may consider this evidence the money was “bargained for” and is therefore taxable. As experienced wrongful death attorneys in California, we can consult with you to help you understand any possible tax implications of a settlement in your case.

How long does it take to settle a wrongful death claim in California?

Anywhere from a few months to several years. Many claims are settled out of court, which is typically faster. Going to trial takes longer, as it involves “discovery” (extensive evidence gathering) and, often, multiple court dates before a jury even hears the case. At Johnson Attorneys group, we can explain your settlement options, and how long each may take.

How do you prove wrongful death?

Demonstrate three things:

  1. The defendant had a duty of care to your loved one – that is, a legal responsibility to take certain actions to avoid harming him or her.
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care – in other words, acted carelessly.
  3. This breach caused the death of your loved one.

Our skilled wrongful death lawyers can maximize your chances of success by advising you which evidence to gather, how to obtain it, and how to present it most effectively.

How are wrongful death settlements paid out in California?

Usually in a lump sum. Structured settlements are also sometimes negotiated. With this form of payment, the money is invested so it earns interest, and survivors receive monthly or annual payments. 

Who gets the money in a wrongful death lawsuit? In California, only one suit may be filed per decedent, which means all family members must file jointly. The family is responsible for determining how any award is divided. If the family cannot agree, the court determines the distribution.

What are the different types of wrongful death cases? 

Causes of wrongful death include but are not limited to auto accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, workplace incidents, and violence.
California law recognizes three types of wrongful death claims with different statutes of limitations:

  • General – Most cases fall into this category and may be filed up to two (2) years from the date of death.
  • Medical malpractice – Claims may be filed up to three (3) years from the date of death or one (1) year after the malpractice is discovered, whichever comes first.
  • Government – If the death involved a government entity such as malpractice at a state hospital, they must be notified of the intent to file within six (6) months or the right to file a lawsuit is lost.

Do I need a lawyer to file a wrongful death case in California?

Technically, no. However, having an experienced attorney on your side makes the process easier and also increases your chances of success. Wrongful death suits can be costly for the party at fault, or their insurance company, so the defendant will likely have an attorney working to minimize the payout. If Johnson Attorneys Group represents you, we don’t charge you any fees unless we win. It makes sense for you to have a skilled attorney on your side to protect your rights and help maximize your award.  Additional benefits include:

  • Legal and strategic advice
  • Help gather key evidence while it’s still available
  • The ability to hire expert witnesses
  • Confidentiality
  • Understanding of proper procedures to prevent costly mistakes – including ones that can cause dismissal or loss of your case

How are damages calculated in wrongful death lawsuits?

Damages are defined as economic and non-economic, and each is calculated differently.

  • Economic damages are determined by totaling lost income, gifts, benefits, and services, along with funeral expenses. The age and life expectancy of both victim and survivor(s) are also included in the calculation.
  • Non-economic damages include losses that are difficult to put a price tag on. These include love and companionship, assistance and protection, and guidance and training. There is no set formula for calculating these.

Can I file a wrongful death claim if the deceased was unemployed? 

Yes. Earned wages are only one way that individuals contribute to their families. The deceased may have enhanced the family’s economic well-being by providing services such as child-rearing and meal preparation. They may also have made non-economic contributions, such as love and companionship. These are all considered when calculating damages. Additionally, if the deceased’s unemployment status was temporary, the money they would have earned upon returning to work will be considered.

Are There Different Considerations in Cases Involving the Death of a Child?

Yes. The main differences are:

  1. Who can file a wrongful death suit – Parents may file a claim if either a) their child has no surviving children, or b) they depended on the child for financial support.
  2. How the award for damages is calculated – As with the death of an adult, family members are entitled to compensation for economic and non-economic damages. However, in the case of a child, the estimated cost of caring for and educating the child is subtracted from the value of these losses.

Are There Different Considerations in Cases Involving the Death of an Elderly Person?

Yes. If the victim was retired, the case may focus on non-monetary losses suffered. One important exception is when a victim’s pension doesn’t have a survivorship benefit and their spouse relies on the pension for support. Another difference is damages may be significantly reduced by the elderly victim’s advanced age.  

At Johnson Attorneys Group we understand how difficult the loss of a loved one can be on their family. We do our best to make the whole process as easy for you as possible and fight for your right to fair compensation so that you and your family can focus on healing. Contact Johnson Attorneys Group’s California wrongful death lawyers to schedule an appointment for a free consultation. We do not charge you a fee unless and until we win your case. We offer 12 locations to serve you throughout California.

Contact Johnson Attorneys Group for a Free Wrongful Death Case Review

If you have lost a loved due to drunk or distracted driving, a workplace accident, an act of violence, medical malpractice, or an act of police brutality, you don’t have to endure the pain of your loss alone. We will fight for your right to fair compensation so that you and your family can focus on healing. 


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