Wrongful death happens when a decedent gets killed from the negligence (or other bad act) of a tort a defendant. The survivor, living dependent or beneficiary is allowed to recover monetary damages in certain situations.

Under English “common law”, which is where all tort law came from, there was no lawsuit allowed for wrongful death claims at all. The early legal scholars explained that they thought the death claims died with the decedents. The surviving family was not allowed to sue a wrongdoer who killed their loved one. In fact, this was a leading reason for feuds of death, such as the story of the early American Hatfields and McCoys. Early America adopted the no recovery for wrongful death English common law rules and this made victims and their families take the law into their own hands for revenge. Most states in America later decided this was unfair and dangerous and their legislatures enacted “wrongful death” and “survival” statutes. Most all states offer some form of recovery for a wrongful death. While most states follow general tort law guidelines, every state has its own exclusive “wrongful death” or “survival” statute. You are also entitled to recover for child injuries resulting in death, such as one requiring the services of a parking structure accident attorney.

The Personal Injury Attorneys at Ehline Law, discuss the differences between wrongful death and survival statutes. This section also includes the CACI Jury Instructions as they relate to California Wrongful Death and Survival Statutes.

Wrongful death is a subspecies of tort law and allows certain individuals to recover money damages for the negligent death of a loved one under certain circumstances. Proving a negligent death case can be difficult. Jury Instructions are created for California Courts and California juries to assist them in proving the necessary elements in a negligent death in California.

Ehline Law are non-commercial publishers of the below educational jury instructions.


How much of a settlement is the decedent’s estate entitled to?

Answer: Must consult with the attorney. Since each case is treated as unique, the potential settlement amount will depend on a variety of factors which must be consulted with the attorney. Claims for wrongful death can include compensation for related medical and burial expenses, loss of income, mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of anticipated future, income, loss of services, loss of family benefits, care and assistance, pain and suffering, general damages, punitive damages, and legal fees.

Who can sue for wrongful death?

Answer: The decedent’s immediate family members such as surviving spouse, children, and offspring of deceased children, or, if there is no surviving children of the decedent, then someone who would be entitled to obtain the property of the decedent by intestate succession.

What kinds of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death claim?

Answer: (1) Financial Support that would decedent contributed to his/her family; (2) Loss of Gifts or Benefits expected from the decedent; (3) Funeral and Burial expenses; (4) reasonable value of Household Services; (5) Loss of Love, Companionship, Affection, Society, Moral Support, Comfort, Care; and (6) Loss of Enjoyment of Sexual Relations, etc.

What is the time limit to file a lawsuit for wrongful death?

Answer: In California, a lawsuit for wrongful death must bring within two (2) years from the date of the accident or incident causing the wrongful death under CCP § 335.1, unless, the wrongful death was caused by the negligence of a doctor or health care provider, or due to building defects.

What does my attorney have to prove for wrongful death to be successful?

Answer: Attorney must show that your loved one’s death resulted from the negligent acts of the defendant and a financial loss occurred as a result of the death, including loss of income, medical and burial expenses, and others alleged claims.

Can my family bring a wrongful death action if the decedent never held a job?

Answer: Yes. In California wrongful death claims often involve children or adults who did not have a steady income. Compensation for loss of companionship, care or other method of family contribution may be requested in the wrongful death action. The loss of non-monetary contributions, such as the role a stay at home mom or housewife provides, is considered a “pecuniary loss” in a wrongful death lawsuit.


After a serious collision, it is important to understand your legal rights. What you do or don’t do following a collision can affect the outcome of your case, so it is critical to immediately contact an auto accident attorney if you suspect that you may have a case.

  • Filing a Car Accident Claim

  • Common Causes of Car Accidents

The laws pertaining to auto accidents are intended to discourage reckless driving and compensate victims for injuries caused by the negligence of others. This purpose is accomplished by holding car designers, manufacturers, and distributors responsible for the safety of their products (product liability) and holding motorists responsible for driving safely. Laws also require that roadways be maintained properly. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, motorcycle accident, large truck accident, and wrongful death laws may also impact a victim’s claim.

If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident or car crash, first seek medical treatment. Do not say anything at the scene of the accident – even if you believe you are at least partially at fault – since this may harm your potential case should you decide to seek damages. Obtain contact information from other parties involved in the accident and any witnesses, and take pictures of the accident scene. Finally, seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Do not speak to the other party’s insurance company, as the insurance companies try to minimize your injuries and will avoid or delay paying out on your claim.

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