When to Raise a Wrongful Death Claim in California

The news of a loved one’s death is always a difficult experience. It only increases the level of pain and devastation to realize that their death was caused through the negligence or wrong actions of another. An unavoidable accident is a tragedy, but an unavoidable accident can be devastating.

Differences Between Wrongful Death and Criminal Homicide

Several factors separate cases that rise to the level of criminal charges from those that are more suited to Wrongful Death claims in civil court. In order to proceed with criminal charges the certain factors must be present. Several of the key differences between civil and criminal process are listed below:

  • The Defendant must be a person. Civil cases may be brought against people or entities, such as corporations
  • In criminal cases the penalty for being found guilty can range from a number of sentencing options open to the judge, but in Wrongful Death cases the only possible judgment against the Defendant is a monetary award for the victim
  • The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The burden of proof for civil procedure only requires a “preponderance of the evidence”
  • There is a statute of limitations (or a time limit) on civil suits for Wrongful Death. In California the statute of limitations is two years from the victim’s date of death. There is no statute of limitations on criminal charges involving murder
  • In a criminal case, the charges will be prosecuted by the government’s attorney, but a civil Wrongful Death claim must be raised by the attorney representing the victim’s family or legal descendant and heir

Reasons to Proceed on Wrongful Death

When you’ve just received the tragic news that someone you love has passed away, the last thing you probably want to think about is suing the person or group of people responsible. You want the time to properly grieve the loss, and that is completely understandable. Even winning such a lawsuit will not bring them back, so what is the point?

There are several reasons to consider moving forward and consulting with an attorney who has experience in Wrongful Death cases. One primary reason is to protect the family that is left behind. Whether the death was caused by another driver’s negligence or a doctor’s failure in treatment, the family that remains will now have extensive costs—such as funeral and memorial costs, any remaining medical costs, loss of their future potential income, etc.

While nothing can bring back a beloved friend or family member, there are situations that call for compensation. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to pursue this option with a dedicated attorney who understands the challenges and difficulties of Wrongful Death claims.

If you’ve lost someone to an accident or another situation that involved the negligence of someone else, we invite you to call the Fox and Fox Injury Attorneys at (818) 986-4494 to arrange a free initial consultation.