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How Is The Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed In California?

When a loved one dies due to someone else’s negligence, it’s not just an emotional loss, but also a financial one. In such cases, the victim’s closest family can file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek justice and financial compensation. But how are wrongful death settlements distributed? Is there a specific formula to follow?

Wrongful death lawsuits are complex, and the legal process can be overwhelming for the victim’s family. Apart from the emotional turmoil, there are several financial aspects to consider, such as medical costs, funeral costs, and lost income. The compensation received from a wrongful death settlement can help ease the financial burden to some extent.

While no amount of money can bring back a loved one, a wrongful death settlement can provide some relief to the family members and help them pay the burial expenses. However, it’s crucial to understand how wrongful death compensation is distributed to ensure that everyone receives a fair share.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in California?
  • Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Wrongful Death Claim In California
  • How is the Settlement Amount Determined in a Wrongful Death Case?
  • How is the Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed in California?
  • What Happens if the Deceased Person has no Living Family Members?

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim In California?

According to the Code of Civil Procedure § 377.60 in California, certain individuals or entities are authorized to file a wrongful death claim:

Immediate Family Members

The surviving spouse, domestic partner, children heirs, and grandchildren (if the deceased’s children are also deceased) have the right to file a wrongful death in California. If the deceased did not have any of these immediate qualified family members, then other dependents who were financially dependent on the deceased may also be able to file a wrongful claim. 

how are wrongful death settlements distributed

Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate 

If the deceased did not have any immediate family members, or if they do not file a wrongful death claim within a certain timeframe, the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may be able to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate. 

Putative Spouse and Children

A putative spouse (someone who had a good faith belief that they were married to the deceased) and the children of the putative spouse may also have the right to file a wrongful death in California. 

It is important to note that California wrongful death laws can be complex, and the specific requirements and limitations may vary depending on the circumstances of the case. It’s necessary to consult with a qualified wrongful death attorney in California to determine who has the legal right to file a claim in a particular situation. 

Has a third party’s negligence resulted in the death of a loved one?

Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Wrongful Death Claim In California

In California, there exists a 2-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim. This means that the lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death, or the right to file a claim may be lost.

However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, if the wrongful death was caused by medical malpractice, the statute of limitations may be extended to three years from the date of the injury that led to the death, or one year from the date of the discovery of the injury, whichever comes first.

It’s important to note that there may be other factors that can affect the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case, such as the age of the deceased person and the circumstances of the death. It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure that you understand the applicable statute of limitations and any other legal requirements for filing a wrongful death claim in California.

How Is the Settlement Amount Determined In A Wrongful Death Case?

The settlement amount in a wrongful death case will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and will be determined through negotiation between the parties or by a judge or jury in a court of law. To determine fair settlement payment in a wrongful death case, these are some factors to keep in mind:

Liability Assessment

The first step in determining the settlement amount in a wrongful death case is to assess liability. This involves determining the wrongful death action, who was at fault for the death, and the extent of their responsibility.

Economic Damages

Economic damages refer to the financial losses suffered by the deceased person’s family as a result of their death. This can include medical bills, funeral expenses, lost income, and other related costs.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages refer to the emotional and psychological losses suffered by the deceased person’s family. This can include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and other related losses.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the defendant for their actions. These damages are intended to deter others from engaging in similar behavior.

Settlement Negotiation

Once the damages have been assessed, the parties involved in the case will negotiate a settlement amount. This will usually involve the defendant’s insurance company offering a settlement amount, which the plaintiff’s attorney will then negotiate to try to get the highest possible amount.

Court Judgment

If the parties are unable to reach a settlement agreement, the case may go to trial, and the court will determine the settlement amount based on the evidence presented.

How is the Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed in California?

In California, the distribution of a wrongful death settlement is determined by the state’s laws. Generally, the settlement is distributed to the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, or other dependents. If there are no surviving dependents, the settlement may be awarded to other family members or the deceased person’s estate.

The distribution of the settlement may be subject to negotiation and agreement among the parties involved, or it may be determined by a court if there is a dispute or disagreement. It is important to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney to ensure that the settlement is distributed in accordance with California law and in the best interests of the deceased person’s loved ones.

Do I Need An Attorney To File A Wrongful Death Claim In California?

Wrongful death claims can be complex and involve various legal and procedural requirements, and having an experienced attorney can greatly increase your chances of success and ensure that your rights are protected. The following are some reasons why it’s important to have a wrongful death lawyer when filing a wrongful death claim in California:

  • Legal Expertise: Wrongful death claims involve intricate legal concepts, such as proving negligence or liability, calculating damages, understanding statutes of limitations, and navigating court procedures. An expert attorney can provide valuable legal guidance and representation. 
  • Maximizing Compensation: An attorney can help you understand the full extent of wrongful death damages you may be entitled to, including compensation for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, lost income, loss of companionship, loss of inheritance, and pain and suffering. They can aggressively work to ensure you receive fair compensation for pain and your losses. 
  • Gathering Evidence and Building a Strong Case: A personal injury lawyer with expertise in wrongful death can assist in gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and building a strong case to support your wrongful death claim. They can also work with experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, to strengthen your case. 
  • Dealing with Insurance Companies and Defense Attorneys: Insurance companies and defense attorneys that represent the at-fault party may try to minimize or deny your claim. An expert attorney can negotiate on your behalf, handle communications with insurance companies and defense attorneys, and protect your rights and interests. 
  • Procedural Compliance: Wrongful death claims have specific procedural requirements and deadlines that must be followed. An attorney can ensure that all necessary paperwork is filed correctly on time and that your claim is properly presented in court. 

While it is possible to file a wrongful death claim without an attorney in California, doing so can be challenging and risky. Hiring a qualified wrongful death attorney can provide you with the legal expertise, support, and representation needed to navigate the complex legal process and pursue a successful claim. 

We Are Here To Help You! Contact Ayuda California Today 

The loss of a loved one can be devastating. Some family members or friends may struggle to process the news and may not pursue justice on behalf of their loved one. 

At Ayuda California, we understand the pain a wrongful death can cause. Our team is here to support you during the difficult time of losing a loved one. Trust us to guide you through the process and provide the help you need.

We fight for justice, and we are ready to help with your case. Call us now! We are 24/7 to help you. We speak Spanish, English and Filipino.

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