The death of a loved one is never an easy thing to experience, yet it can be even more harrowing if that death was preventable. Unfortunately, this is an all too common scenario, as thousands of Americans die every year as the result of the negligence or harmful actions of others.

In California, the law allows surviving family members to seek justice for their loved ones through a wrongful death lawsuit. While nothing can replace the loss of a beloved family member, this litigation can help families receive some form of compensation, while sending a message that negligent and life-threatening actions are unacceptable.

How Wrongful Death Suits Work

There are a few elements that must be present in order for a wrongful death lawsuit to succeed. First, the action must involve the death of a person caused by the negligence (or intent to harm) of another. The suit must be filed by the surviving family members or a representative of the deceased person’s estate. In California, wrongful death lawsuits may be pursued in parallel with criminal litigation.

In terms of damages, wrongful death suits can help compensate survivors and heirs for medical bills, funeral expenses and the income the wrongfully killed person would have earned over a lifetime. In California, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the person’s death, though there may be an exception if the cause of death wasn’t revealed until later.

Wrongful death lawsuits can be triggered by a variety of causes. These causes can include medical malpractice, criminal violence, vehicle accidents and environmental hazards.

Why Wrongful Death Suits Are Often Complex

In addition to establishing negligence or intent to harm, wrongful death litigation must also typically weigh several complex variables when arriving at any damages awarded as the result of the action.

When determining the financial loss created by a wrongful death, courts typically consider the age, earning power, life expectancy and health of the deceased party, along with a variety of other factors. Because these matters are often complicated, the testimony of expert witnesses may be needed.

While some states allow punitive damages in wrongful death cases, California does not, except in cases of felony murder.

Finding an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Given the complex nature of wrongful death litigation, it’s critically important to work with a law firm with a track record of handling the toughest cases.

By finding an attorney who specializes in wrongful death actions, families can rest assured that they’ll have experienced representation capable of helping them receive the justice to which they’re entitled.