What is Considered a “Wrongful” Death in California?

In the state of California, the law defines a wrongful death as a death that occurs due a defendant’s, including an entity, deliberate actions or negligence. Examples of situations that can cause a wrongful dealt include medical malpractice and motor vehicle accidents. However, under the California wrongful death law, the death of a fetus or unborn child and the death from a justifiable homicide are not wrongful deaths. That said, if you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, you should file a CA wrongful death case as soon as possible. Here is some more information on this topic.

An Overview of Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Simply put, a wrongful death case in CA is a civil lawsuit that aims to recover monetary damages for the dealt of a loved one. Under the California wrongful death statute (California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) Section 377.60), such a lawsuit can be filed directly by the decedent’s close family members, including a spouse, domestic partner and children. In case the decedent has no spouse or children, the court can appoint a representative of the decedent’s estate to file the lawsuit. More specifically, any person entitled to the decedent’s estate by intestate succession, including the decedent’s siblings and parents, would be able to file such a lawsuit. At this point, it is worth noting that because a wrongful death lawsuit seeks to recover monetary damages from the defendant for the death of a loved one, you can file both a criminal lawsuit and a wrong death lawsuit. What’s more, the outcome of the former would not affect the outcome of the latter.


It is important to note that the main aim of a wrongful death lawsuit is not necessarily to punish the defendant. Instead, it is to compensate the decedent’s family for the loss of their loved one. That said, as the plaintiff, you can seek to recover both economic and non-economic damages. The actual amount of damages various from one case to another depending on the specific details of each case. Courts generally divide damages into two broad categories. These categories include damages attributed to the decedent’s estates and damages attributed to the decedent’s family members. The former category includes hospital and medical expenses resulting from the decedent’s final injuries or illness, funeral and burial expenses, lost income, which may include the decedent’s potential future earnings. On the other hand, that latter category includes non-economic damages such as loss of moral support, love, guidance, and attention, as well as the loss of anticipated financial support.

Statute of Limitations

Similar to other personal injury lawsuits, a wrongful death lawsuit has a time limit, meaning you should file your lawsuit within a stipulated time period. In general, you should file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date of your loved one’s death.


Under the California wrongful death statute, a wrongful death is essentially that occurs due to a defendant’s negligence or deliberate actions. In this case, a defendant may be an individual or an entity. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in California is two years.


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