When someone has died due to the wrongdoing of another, the deceased person’s survivors may be entitled to bring a wrongful-death action against the parties responsible for the decedent’s death. In addition, certain legal actions brought by or that might have been brought by a deceased person prior to death may be continued or commenced as survival actions after the decedent’s death.
The Killino Firm’s San Francisco wrongful-death and survival-action lawyers have handled wrongful-death and survival actions of every variety and complexity. If one of your family members has died due to someone’s negligence or other wrongdoing, contact The Killino Firm at 415-278-9278 for a cost-free evaluation of your case and additional information about your legal rights and options.
California Wrongful-death Actions
California’s wrongful-death statute, found at Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60, provides for the bringing of a wrongful-death action by a decedent’s survivors when the decedent’s death was caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another. The survivors allowed to bring such an action under California law include a decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, and descendants of the decedent’s deceased children. If the decedent left no survivors, then the persons who would be entitled to inherit from the decedent by intestate succession may bring a wrongful-death action against those responsible for the decedent’s death. Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60(a). Such persons may include the decedent’s surviving spouse or domestic partner. Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60(a). California wrongful-death actions may also be brought by persons who were dependent on a decedent, by a decedent’s stepchildren and parents, and by the putative spouse of a decedent (which is defined as a surviving spouse of a void or voidable marriage who is found by the court to have believed in good faith that the marriage to the decedent was still valid). Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60(b).
In addition, any minor who had been living with the decedent for at least the 180 days immediately prior to the decedent’s death and who had been dependent on the decedent for at least 50% of his or her support during that time may bring a wrongful-death action to recover damages for the death of the decedent. Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60(c). A minor who fits this description may bring such an action even if the minor had not been related to the decedent by blood or marriage. Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60(c).
California wrongful-death actions may be brought by a decedent’s survivors, themselves, or by the personal representative of a decedent’s estate on behalf of the survivors, Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.60, and must generally be commenced within two years of a decedent’s death. Ca.Civ.Pro. §335.1. If a decedent’s wrongful death is alleged to have been caused by medical or healthcare-provider malpractice, the wrongful-death action must be brought within three years after the date of the decedent’s injury or one year after the plaintiff discovers the injury or should have discovered the injury through the use of reasonable diligence. Ca.Civ.Pro. §340.5. Because the recovery obtained in a California wrongful-death action is intended to compensate a decedent’s survivors for the damages they have suffered as a result of the decedent’s death, the damages are paid directly to the survivors rather than to the decedent’s estate. These damages may include amounts that are deemed just under all the circumstances, but may not include damages recoverable in survival actions under Ca. Civ. Pro. §377.34. Ca.Civ.Pro. §377.61.
California Survival Actions
In California, if a decedent had either commenced a cause of action before his or her death or would have been entitled to do so if he or she had lived, the action is considered to “survive” the decedent’s death as long as the applicable statute of limitations has not run. Ca. Civ. Pro. §§377.20, 377.21. In such a case, the action or actions may be pursued or commenced as “survival actions” by the personal representative of a decedent’s estate or by the decedent’s successor in interest. Any damages recovered are paid to the decedent’s estate and are limited to the losses or damages sustained by the decedent prior to death. While such damages may include any penalties or punitive or exemplary damages that the decedent would have been entitled to recover if the decedent had lived, they may not include any damages for the pain, suffering, and disfigurement suffered by the decedent prior to death. Ca. Civ. Pro. §§377.30, 377.31, 377.34.
The Killino Firm’s San Francisco lawyers have extensive experience with all types of wrongful-death and survival actions, including those arising out of auto or car accidents, motorcycle and truck accidents, child or birth injuries, brain injuries, accidents caused by defective products, medical malpractice, or other wrongdoing. If one of your family members has died as a result of someone’s negligence or a dangerous and defective product, our San Francisco wrongful-death and survival-action lawyers are ready to fight for the justice you and your family members deserve. Contact The Killino Firm at 415-278-9278 for high-quality and dedicated assistance with your case.