Have you recently and unexpectedly lost a loved one in a Los Angeles accident? You may be entitled to recover monetary compensation from the person who is responsible for causing the fatal accident. At Citywide Law Group, our personal injury attorneys understand that this is an incredibly difficult time in your life. You are mourning the loss of your loved one and may be facing extraordinary financial burdens as a result of their loss. By filing a wrongful death claim, you can hold the at-fault party responsible for their actions and recover much-needed compensation. Call our Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We are available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so do not hesitate to call.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When a person is injured because of another person’s negligence, they are generally entitled to recover damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit. When the victim is killed in an accident as the result of another person’s negligence or wrongful conduct, their family can file what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. By allowing wrongful death lawsuits, California helps to make sure that victims can recover the money they need after a fatal accident, and that negligent parties are held responsible for their actions.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In order to file a wrongful death claim in California, you must have a special relationship with the accident victim. California Code of Civil Procedure Section 377.60 explains that the following people can pursue compensation in a wrongful death claim:
- The victim’s spouse,
- The victim’s children,
- The victim’s domestic partner,
- The victim’s stepchildren, and
- The victim’s parents.
The victim’s spouse, children, and/or domestic partner are given the primary right to file a wrongful death claim. If the victim did not have a spouse, child, or domestic partner, the other listed parties may file a wrongful death claim. However, these individuals must be able to prove that they relied on the victim financially.
When Can You File a Wrongful Death Claim?
General Statute of Limitations
If your loved one has been killed in a Los Angeles accident it is important to act quickly. Wrongful death claims must generally be filed within two years of the accident that caused your loved one’s death. If your claim is not filed within this timeframe, which is known as the statute of limitations, you will not be able to recover any damages, at all. Speaking with an experienced Los Angeles wrongful death attorney immediately after the fatal accident will help to make sure that your claim is filed in a timely manner.
There are limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if your loved one is killed as a result of medical malpractice, you will have a little bit longer to file a claim. A wrongful death claim based on medical malpractice must be filed within (1) three years of the date of the fatal incident, or (2) one year of discovering the relationship between the injury and medical professional negligence.
There may be times when the government is responsible for causing a fatal accident. In California, accident victims and/or their families are permitted to file a personal injury and/or wrongful death claim against the responsible government entity. The California Tort Claims Act, which permits these lawsuits to be filed against the government, limits the amount of time a victim has to file a claim. If a claim is not filed within six months of an accident the victim(s) will lose their right to recover damages.
What Damages Can I Get in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits exist to allow family members to recover damages for harms they suffer as a result of the unexpected loss of a loved one. In California, damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim are split into two distinct categories: economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are awarded to help families with verifiable financial costs that they suffer (or will suffer) because of their loved one’s unexpected death. The following economic damages may be recovered by a family member who files a wrongful death claim in California:
- Financial support that the victim would have contributed to the family had they not been killed;
- The loss of gifts or benefits that the family member would have received from the victim;
- Funeral and burial costs, including travel and accommodations;
- Medical costs paid in the time between the accident and the victim’s death; and
- Reasonable value of household services that the victim would have provided.
Non-economic damages are awarded to compensate families for harms that cannot be valued in terms of money. These are generally the physical, emotional, and psychological injuries that family members endure in the wake of a family member’s death. Since these types of damages can be very difficult to value, and vary from person to person, the amount of non-economic damages can vary significantly from case to case. The following non-economic damages may be recovered by a family member who files a wrongful death claim in California:
- The loss of the victim’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support;
- The loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations with the victim; and
- The loss of the victim’s training and guidance.
How are Damages Taxed?
Economic and non-economic damages are not taxed in the same way. In California, economic damages are (in most cases) not taxable. This means that when you receive an award of economic damages you do not have to include this money as income. However, it is important to note that economic damages can be taxable if you have previously taken an income tax deduction for your accident-related costs.
For example, let’s say you paid medical bills for the victim in the time between the accident and their death. You deduct the cost of these medical expenses on your tax return. If you are awarded economic damages to compensate for these medical expenses you must include them as income. If you did not deduct the cost of the medical expenses you do not have to include your damages as income.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are always taxable. When you receive non-economic damages you must include your award as income on your tax return.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in California
Whether your loved one was killed in a car accident, suffered a fatal dog bite, or was killed because of a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss. Contact the Citywide Law Group today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. Our Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys have more than 17 years of legal experience and have helped victims just like you recover millions in compensation. We know that you may be overwhelmed with emotion and financial stress, and may not where to begin. We can help you navigate through this incredibly difficult time in your life and ease the financial burdens you face. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.