If your loved one died because of someone else’s actions, your family could fight for the justice they deserve by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This process is rarely easy, but your family needs to know what you expect before you file the case in court.
At One Law Group, we are experienced California wrongful death trial litigators ready to help your family pursue justice. Contact us to request a case evaluation.
The Procedure in a Wrongful Death Case
California law recognizes a hierarchy of who may file the actual wrongful death lawsuit, although other family members can receive part of the award if they suffered their own losses.
In California, the order of precedence for a wrongful death lawsuit is as follows:
- The surviving spouse
- Surviving children
- Grandchildren, if there are no surviving children
- Other heirs
To win a wrongful death lawsuit, you must show that someone else was to blame for your loved one’s death.
You may be entitled to financial compensation if you can show that someone else:
- Was negligent, meaning that they acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
- Was reckless, meaning that they acted so carelessly that it was an extreme failure to uphold their standard of care.
- Intentionally caused your loved one’s death.
You Need an Attorney to Handle Your Case
The first step to filing a wrongful death lawsuit is hiring an experienced attorney to represent your family. You cannot file a lawsuit until you understand the facts and circumstances behind your loved one’s death.
Your lawyer will need to draft a legal complaint that explains the relevant facts and why your family is entitled to financial compensation. It may take your attorney some time to investigate what happened and gather the necessary proof. You do not need to have all the evidence required to win your case when you file because you may obtain some of it during the court process.
How Long Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Take?
A wrongful death trial in front of a jury is far from instantaneous. The litigation process will usually take over a year from start to finish. The first stage of the case is when the parties make written filings with the court that include the complaint, an answer, and the defendant’s inevitable motion to dismiss the case.
The longest part of a wrongful death lawsuit is the discovery process in the case. Discovery is when you and the defendant are given a chance to obtain evidence in each other’s possession. You can obtain physical evidence in the form of emails and other communications. You can also ask the defendant questions, both in writing and in a deposition. Your family members may also have their deposition.
Discovery can take many months to complete. The court will set a schedule for discovery. There may be delays in the process because you may need to go to the judge to compel the defendant if they are not following your discovery requests.
Even after you complete discovery, there may be still more months before your case goes to trial. The court will allow you and the defendant to file a motion for summary judgment, which asks the judge to decide the case without needing a trial.
At the same time, you may be discussing a settlement with the defendant. It is rare that a personal injury case will go to trial, as most lawsuits will settle. You may choose to have a mediator attempt to help you and the defendant reach an agreement. Both sides in the case have their own motivation to reach a settlement. From your standpoint, a settlement reduces your risk of getting nothing, which can mean you get your money faster.
It is only after those steps that your case will reach a jury. The trial is actually the shortest part of the case. Most personal injury hearings are completed in less than two weeks, as the judge will grant each side a certain period of time to present their case to the jury. At the conclusion of the case, the jury will reach a decision. If you win, the defendant may appeal the verdict, which can add more months to the case before you can get a check.
The Legal Process Is a Must After a Wrongful Death
Understandably, your family will be very concerned with the timing and process of the wrongful death case. It is hard enough to lose a loved one without going through a complex legal case that can take more than a year from start to finish. You may have to relive difficult experiences when all you want is closure for what happened.
However, you have to go through the legal process if you want justice in the form of financial compensation. It may not be an easy route to compensation, as the insurance company may try to make your life difficult. A determined and tenacious personal injury attorney can handle the details of your claim, working for your family to get the highest possible financial compensation.
Contact a California Attorney About Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The attorneys at the One Law Group can handle your wrongful death case diligently and compassionately, understanding your family’s situation. We offer free consultations to families who have lost a loved one.
You can schedule your free consultation by calling us at (844) 626-1529 or sending us a message online.
Wrongful Death Case FAQs
What is the difference between a wrongful death case and a survival action?
A wrongful death seeks compensation for the family’s loss, while a survival action belongs to the estate, seeking money for what the deceased person endured before their death.
How long do I have to file a wrongful death case in California?
You have two years after your loved one has died to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Can I sue a company for a wrongful death case?
Absolutely. You can sue a company in its own right or if its employee caused your loved one’s wrongful death.